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Open Access Normal Vaginal Flora in Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): Qualitative and Quantitative Study

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Lactobacilli are the predominant microorganisms in the vaginal flora of human beings, and are known to play an important role in protecting them from genital infections. On the other hand, the composition of the vaginal flora differs among laboratory animal species, and lactobacilli are not the predominant vaginal microorganism in many laboratory animals. We speculated that the vaginal flora of chimpanzees would be more similar to those of human beings than to those of other animal species, because chimpanzees are phylogenetically close to human beings, and their reproductive physiology is similar to that of human beings. To clarify our speculation, we examined the development of the vaginal flora in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Streptococci, lactobacilli, and members of the family Bacteroidaceae were the most predominant bacteria in the vagina of mature chimpanzees (9 to 22 years old). During development of the vaginal flora of chimpanzees, the total number of bacteria increased with age and reached a plateau just before sexual maturity (5 to 7 years of age; juvenile period). Lactobacilli were already one of the predominant bacteria before sexual maturity. In mature chimpanzees, the total number of bacteria (aerobes and anaerobes) in the vagina was highest during the swelling phase of the menstrual cycle. During the swelling phase in mature chimpanzees, streptococci, lactobacilli, and Bacteroidaceae were the most frequently isolated (100%) organisms, and the total number of organisms recovered from vaginal specimens from these three groups was the highest. In mature chimpanzees in which the number of bacteria was the highest, lactobacilli were the predominant bacteria. Taken together, these results suggest that these three bacterial groups (streptococci, lactobacilli, and Bacteroidaceae) are indigenous to the vagina of chimpanzees, and chimpanzees would be the most suitable laboratory animals for studying the role of lactobacilli in the vagina of human beings.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Division of Microbiology and Genetics, Center for Animal Resources and Development, Institute of Resource Development and Analysis, Kumamoto University, 2-2-1 Honjo, Kumamoto 860-0811, Japan 2: Kumamoto Primates Research Park, Sanwa Kagaku Kenkyusho Co., Ltd., 990 Nishikuroiwa, Ohtao, Misumi-cho, UtoGun, Kumamoto 869-3201, Japan

Publication date: 2004-12-01

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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