Promising prebiotic candidate established by evaluation of lactitol, lactulose, raffinose, and oligofructose for maintenance of a Lactobacillus-dominated vaginal microbiota
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
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Perturbations to the vaginal microbiota can lead to dysbiosis, including bacterial vaginosis (BV), which affects a large portion of the female population. In a healthy state, the vaginal microbiota is characterized by low diversity and colonization by Lactobacillus spp., whereas in BV, these species are displaced by a highly diverse population of bacteria associated with adverse vaginal health outcomes. Since prebiotic ingestion has been a highly effective approach to invigorate lactobacilli for improved intestinal health, we hypothesized that these compounds could stimulate lactobacilli at the expense of BV organisms to maintain vaginal health. Monocultures of commensal Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus vaginalis, Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus johnsonii, Lactobacillus jensenii, and Lactobacillus iners, in addition to BV-associated organisms and Candida albicans, were tested for their ability to utilize a representative group of prebiotics consisting of lactitol, lactulose, raffinose, and oligofructose. The disaccharide lactulose was found to most broadly and specifically stimulate vaginal lactobacilli, including the strongly health-associated species L. crispatus, and importantly, not to stimulate BV organisms or C. albicans. Using freshly collected vaginal samples, we showed that exposure to lactulose promoted commensal Lactobacillus growth and dominance and resulted in healthy acidity partially through lactic acid production. This provides support for further testing of lactulose to prevent dysbiosis and potentially to reduce the need for antimicrobial agents in managing vaginal health.