Cervical cancer may be driven by imbalance in vaginal bacteria, UA research finds
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IMAGE: These are endometrial cells colonized with ‘good’ bacteria called Lactobacillus crispatus (colored purple). view more 

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Credit: Herbst-Kralovetz lab

Virtually all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, or human papillomavirus, dubbed the “common cold” of sexually transmitted infections because nearly every sexually active person catches it. Fortunately, the immune system vanquishes the majority of HPV infections, with only a small percentage progressing to precancer and, ultimately, cancer. But why do some people clear the infection while others are unable to fight it?

To answer that question, a team led by the University of Arizona Cancer Center’s Melissa M. Herbst-Kralovetz, PhD, associate professor at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, studied 100 premenopausal women to find links between vaginal bacteria and cervical cancer.

Her team found that women without cervical abnormalities are hosts to different communities of vaginal bacteria than women with cervical cancer and precancer, a discrepancy that reveals a direct relationship between “good” bacteria and cervical health, and “bad” bacteria and increased cancer risk. The results were published online May 15 in the open-access Nature publication Scientific Reports.

The microbiome is the community of microbes that take up residence in the body. Some species of bacteria–such as lactobacilli, which are related to but

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