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Isala is a large-scale citizen science project of the University of Antwerp. Isala’s ambitions are big. And important. We want to try for the very first time to better understand the female microbiome with state-of-the-art DNA technology. Say what?

Well, in your vagina live millions of bacteria that play a crucial role in your health. They are incredibly important in protecting you from vaginal infections, bladder infections, STDs, … and we suspect they also play a big role in fertility and healthy pregnancies. Only … we don’t know for sure. Because until now, scientific research has often been a man’s world and so there has been little interest in the female microbiome. Isala wants to change this.

And so, in 2020, we launched a call to find 200 women willing to take some simple ‘swabs’ in the privacy of their own bathroom. We looked for 200 women, we found 6,000. Wow!

This enthusiasm immediately made Isala the largest vaginal microbiome study in the world (!!!) with already sister projects in as many as 20 countries, leading to many international awards and recognition, as well as major breakthroughs in vaginal microbiome research.

Now a new phase starts and women can sign up again to make history together, improve women’s health worldwide, and discover which bacteria live in their vagina. We are looking for 1,000 women to join us in researching the impact of vitamins, menstrual products, your menstrual cycle, your loved ones, fungal infections, and so much more.

Will you help make history with your vagina? Together we will help women worldwide achieve better vaginal health!


Isala wants to break the taboo around vaginal health. That’s why all our research kits contain great conversation starters (also available online here). Use these cards as inspiration for interesting chats with friends and family, and find out how much there is to say about vaginal health.

You can also start a conversation online (here) by clicking on a question and adding your response. You can do it anonymously – your first name is fine. The Isala researchers will answer your question. This way, we can increase knowledge about the female microbiome and break the taboo together. That’s our dream at Isala. Feel free to add comments and ask questions – let’s start the conversation together!

In Belgium, 5528 women have already sent out a strong message by registering to take part in Isala. Will you help them make history and spread the message around the world?

The call to take part in our citizen science project spread very quickly. Women picked up on our message and actively helped to break the taboo surrounding female health. We want to give them the opportunity to contribute to groundbreaking research on women’s health. 
Can you help us? 

Isala Van Diest

Isala Van Diest (1842-1916) was the first female doctor in Belgium. She had to study in Switzerland because women were not allowed to attend Belgian universities at that time, but she persisted. And she made history. Thanks to her, a Royal Decree was issued in 1884 that allowed women in Belgium to become doctors. We named our citizen science project after this inspiring woman because we too are ready to make history along with more than 5000 other women.

We know that there have been many amazing women like Isala around the world. In Peru, for example, Laura Rodríguez Dulanto (1872-1919) was the first woman to be admitted to a Peruvian university to study science and medicine at the same time! She went on to become the first female physician in Peru. We will study the vaginal microbiome in Peru’s Amazon and Coastal regions! We named this project Laura, after this inspiring Peruvian woman.

#LetsSwab handjes