Spoiler alert: a wave of brand new Isala results

Get ready! New Isala results are available… NOW! Today is not just a random day of course. It is Isala’s third birthday! One big party! Last summer we already shared the first results of the second Isala phase with you. For this second phase, we selected almost 300 women and studied whether their vaginal microbiome had changed over a few months. But we also asked these women to sample other body areas. Today we have brand new results as a gift for them! We are extremely grateful for their participation and therefore they receive something in return! As of today, every participant of the second Isala phase can check an updated personal profile. In this blog we summarize more general highlights of what we have found. Read on! 😊

Which other places on the female body were studied with Isala besides the vagina? Well, in addition to vaginal samples over several menstrual cycles, we also asked our Isala participants to collect a saliva sample and several skin samples. For the skin samples, we chose three places on the body, namely around the mouth, the breast and the groin skin. We show them in the image below. These three zones were chosen because they are underexplored, but very relevant for female health and intimacy. Moreover, they come into direct contact with underwear and are relevant for forensic investigations as well, such as sexual assault cases. In regard of the latter, the Isala team contributes to an increase in research in this field as well, as you may remember.

Huidswab: mond, borstbeen en rond tepels, dij

Regarding the skin around the mouth, we found typical skin bacteria, such as Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium, but also typical mouth bacteria that were found in saliva as well, such as Actinobacillus, Neisseria, Veillonella, Prevotella and Streptococcus. To our surprise, saliva turned out to be very special. Here, we found the same bacterial genera for almost all of our participants, regardless of external influences such as food, drinks, exchange of saliva of a potential partner, and so on. For each of those genera of bacteria, we created its own passport so that you can get to know them in more detail: Actinobacillus, Prevotella, Streptococcus, Fusobacterium, Gemella, Leptotrichia, Neisseria, and Veillonella. This, however, does not mean that these participants all have the same bacteria in their saliva. Still major differences exist within such a bacterial genus, that we name ‘species’ and ‘strains’. In fact, this is comparable to differences that exist between people that however have the same surname.

For the groin skin, we found many genera and species of skin bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium, but also of vaginal bacteria: Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus iners and Prevotella. Lactobacillus crispatus and Lactobacillus iners are typical bacteria for a healthy vagina. We also found them on the groin skin. Interestingly, we also quite often encountered these bacteria on the skin around the breasts. For example, we found Lactobacillus iners on the breast of 41% of the participants and Lactobacillus crispatus on the breast of 53%.

Our research group has previously conducted a study on the skin microbiome, however for the skin of the face. In that study, we also found lactobacilli such as Lactobacillus crispatus and Lactobacillus iners. Lactobacilli are the first bacteria that find their way to the baby’s body during a vaginal birth. However, the presence of Lactobacillus iners on the skin was rather unexpected, since this bacterium is not well adapted to grow outside the vagina. But we note that breast tissue also produces estrogen and glycogen. In the vagina, these are important stimuli for the presence and growth of lactobacilli. This will be further investigated in our future research. It can also be that their occurrence was just a snapshot.

While working towards this communication moment, we again had a lot of fun. And of course our research is far from over. A lot of exciting things are happening behind the scenes. As always, we will keep you informed via our newsletter, social media channels and blog page! But for now, we will first enjoy cake since such a unique birthday should be celebrated. Already three years after Isala has started… look how time flies when you’re having fun! 😊 We would like to thank our participants a thousand times for their very useful samples. They gave us plenty of material to work on the coming days, months, years. Thank you!

Did you participate in the second phase of Isala? Make sure to check your personal profile for an update of your personal results. You are not a participant but curious to get a more extensive update than available in this blog? Check out our brand new results pages on our website!