This bacterium was found in 61% of all participants in small numbers. It was the dominant or most common bacterium in 17 participants.
What does this bacterium look like?
These bacteria are shaped like small balls. Often these bacteria hang together and form clusters. Anaerococcus bacteria are approximately 0.5 to 1 micrometres in size (that’s small when you know that 1000 micrometres fit into one millimetre). The name Anaerococcus is a fusion of ‘anaerobic’ and ‘coccus’. The word ‘anaerobic’ refers to the lifestyle of this bacterium: only in places without oxygen. The ‘coccus’ refers to the spherical shape of the bacterium, as you might recognise from Streptococcus.
What does science know about this bacterium?
The chances are that you have never heard of this bacterium. Even science does not know much about Anaerococcus. In the past this bacterium was often associated with inflammation and its cultivation was therefore mainly aimed at finding the cause of infections. However, more recent scientific research shows that the presence of Anaerococcus in many parts of the body is harmless. Anaerococcus has an average of around 2,000 genes and can therefore produce many different molecules.
What is this bacterium doing in my vagina?
As you can read in detail here, only recently the Isala researchers have decided to also name Anaerococcus as an important bacterium when it comes to your vaginal health. It is much less common and rarely dominant in the vagina, but because we found it in so many different women, the realisation grew that this could be an important bacterium. Like the lactobacilli, it produces lactic acid, but also many other acids.
The exact function and effect of this bacterium in the vagina is not yet clear, precisely because it is so little known. But now that we have included them in our list of ten at Isala, we will give them the necessary attention in the future and we want to investigate exactly what role Anaerococcus plays in our vaginal health.
A recent hypothesis within the scientific community is that this species belongs to the so-called pathobionts. This is a group of bacteria with a somewhat split personality: they usually do not cause any symptoms, but in specific circumstances, such as a change in environmental factors, they can still cause an infection. Unfortunately, the technique used at Isala does not allow us to determine whether the Anaerococcus in your vagina could possibly cause an infection. The most important advice we can give you remains the same: are you experiencing any symptoms or concerns? If so, contact your doctor.
Does this bacteria occur elsewhere?
Yes, Anaerococcus can be found in many other parts of your body: your skin, mouth, nose, intestines, etc. Sometimes this bacterium is also found when examining wounds or abscesses.