Merida, Yucatan — Researchers at UADY are getting ready to conduct a health study of women who have sex with women.
Through its Microbiome Grant Initiative, a San Francisco-based biotechnology called uBiome has awarded microbiome research support to researchers at the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan.
The goal of the study is to characterize the composition of the vaginal microbiome and its relationship with sexual practices in these women — the announcement favors the term “WSW” over “lesbian” — and determine the frequency of sexually transmitted infection in this group, including the relative abundance of taxa related to bacterial vaginosis.
Researchers hope this study will be the first of many to improve the visibility of WSWs as an at-risk group and to inform future healthcare programs and public health policies for this minority population.
Data collected from the study will include vaginal microbiome composition from uBiome’s patented kits, age and sexual practices.
“uBiome is proud to offer support for this study, which will likely have implications for the sexual health of this understudied population,” said Jessica Richman, PhD, co-founder and CEO of uBiome. “As the first study of its kind in Mexico and Latin America, this study will begin to close the knowledge gap of vaginal microbiome associations.”
The scientists will be led by Laura Conde-Ferráez PhD., who has been a professor and researcher at UADY’s Center for Regional Research since 2008. Her research focus is infectious disease, virology, and women’s sexual and reproductive health. She has been a member of the National System of Researchers since 2011, directs and co-directs undergraduate and postgraduate theses, and has authored nearly 40 scientific articles.
“Our research group is very excited about the grant, which will allow us to contribute to knowledge and hopefully to the health of this understudied population, considered as ‘invisible’ to public health programs,” said Conde-Ferráez. “In Mexico and Latin America in general, there have been very limited contributions to this field of research. We hope to set the basis of multidisciplinary approaches for a better understanding of the particular needs and risks of WSW, and for more inclusive health promotion strategies.”
uBiome’s commercial products include SmartGut, which identifies microbes in the gut for patients with chronic gut conditions such as IBD, IBS, Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
Another product is SmartJane, which genotypes all 19 clinically relevant strains of HPV, identifies four common STDs, and surveys more than 20 vaginal microbes associated with bacterial vaginosis and other conditions.