Home (EN)

Yes, the first results of Isala are now available!

Discover now what we have learnt about the microbiome of vaginas in Flanders.

Isala is a citizen science project at the University of Antwerp. Isala’s ambitions are high. And important! For the first time in Belgium, and hopefully in other countries like Peru as well (Laura project), we want to get a better understanding of the female microbiome using state-of-the-art DNA technology. Say what?!

Well, your vagina is home to millions of bacteria that play a vital role in your health. They’re incredibly important when it comes to protecting you from infections, UTIs and STIs, and we think they probably play a major role in fertility and healthy pregnancies too. But… we don’t know for sure. Because until recently, scientific research was very much a man’s world and there wasn’t much interest in the vaginal microbiome. Isala wants to change that.

So in March 2020, we launched a call to find 200 women in Belgium willing to take simple swabs from their vaginas, skin and saliva in the privacy of their own bathrooms. We were looking for 200 women and we found more than 5000. Wow!  

Now we’re going to make history with all of those women.  


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