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Microbiomes may help improve diagnosis of endometriosis

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A new process to identify certain microbes in women could be used to diagnose endometriosis without invasive surgery, possibly even before symptoms start.

Our body’s microbes collectively create what is called microbiomes. “Our immune system greatly influences our individual microbiome community,” says. SIU Medicine researcher Andrea Braundmeier-Fleming, PhD. “Several diseases alter our immune system, and these alterations result in unique microbial profiles.”

One of those diseases is endometriosis, which occurs when the uterus’ lining grows outside the uterus, resulting in painful lesions and possible infertility. Currently laparoscopic surgery is used to diagnose endometriosis.

Braundmeier-Fleming, assistant professor in the department of medical microbiology, immunology, and cell biology along with researchers from Michigan State University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory wanted to understand how endometriosis changed microbes, or bacteria, in the uterus and cervix.

The team studied microbes from women with and without endometriosis and compared bacteria from the uterus with vaginal microbes. “We determined that the uterine microbiome is not simply a subset of the vaginal microbiome and that microbial diversity increased with stage III endometriosis,” said Melissa Cregger, PhD, Liane Russell Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and lead author of a pilot study published in Reproductive Immunology

The study found that women diagnosed with moderate endometriosis had significantly different bacteria and more bacteria than patients without disease.  As a result, Braundmeier-Fleming says, physicians may be able to diagnosis endometriosis by analyzing bacteria through swabs or urine samples.

The team plans to further analyze the microbiome to diagnosis ovarian and endometrial cancers and evaluate responses to treatment.  Braundmeier-Fleming is excited by the research. “This research means potential exists to identify an individual’s microbial profile and use it to clinically to diagnose several different diseases and other disorders.”

Related: Reproductive Microbiomes: Using the Microbiome as a Novel Diagnostic Tool for Endometriosis

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