The vaginal microbiome is believed to influence host health by providing protection from pathogens and influencing reproductive outcomes such as fertility and gestational length. In humans, age-associated declines in diversity of the vaginal microbiome occur in puberty and persist into adulthood. Additionally, menstruation has been associated with decreased microbial community stability. Adult female baboons, like other non-human primates (NHPs), have a different and highly diverse vaginal microbiome compared to that of humans, which is most commonly dominated by Lactobacillus spp. We evaluated the influence of age, reproductive cycling status (cycling vs. non-cycling) and menstruation on the vaginal microbiome of 38 wild-caught, captive female olive baboons (Papio anubis) by culture-independent sequencing of the V3-V5 region of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene. All baboons had highly diverse vaginal microbial communities. Adult baboons had significantly lower microbial diversity in comparison to subadult baboons, which was attributable to decreased relative abundance of minor taxa. No significant differences were detected based on cycling state or menstruation. Predictive metagenomic analysis showed uniformity in relative abundance of metabolic pathways regardless of age, cycle stage, or menstruation, indicating conservation of microbial community functions. This study suggests that selection of an optimal vaginal microbial community occurs at puberty. Since decreased diversity occurs in both baboons and humans at puberty, this may reflect a general strategy for selection of adult vaginal microbial communities. Comparative evaluation of vaginal microbial community development and composition may elucidate mechanisms of community formation and function that are conserved across host species or across microbial community types. These findings have implications for host health, evolutionary biology, and microbe-host ecosystems.
- Bacterial 16S rRNA gene
- Non-human primates