Association of Female Genital Schistosomiasis With the Cervicovaginal Microbiota and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Zambian Women

22 Aug 2021
Amy S Sturt, Emily L Webb, Lisa Himschoot, Comfort R Phiri, Joyce Mapani, Maina Mudenda, Eyrun F Kjetland, Tobias Mweene, Bruno Levecke, Govert J van Dam, Paul L A M Corstjens, Helen Ayles, Richard J Hayes, Lisette van Lieshout, Isaiah Hansingo, Suzanna C Francis, Piet Cools, Amaya L Bustinduy


The cervicovaginal microbiota, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), have not been well described in female genital schistosomiasis (FGS).


Women (aged 18–31, sexually active, nonpregnant) were invited to participate at the final follow-up of the HPTN 071 (PopART) Population Cohort in January–August 2018. We measured key species of the cervicovaginal microbiota (Lactobacillus crispatus, L. iners, Gardnerella vaginalis, Atopobium vaginae, and Candida) and STIs (Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Trichomonas vaginalis, and Mycoplasma genitalium) using quantitative PCR (qPCR). We evaluated associations of the microbiota and STI presence and concentration with FGS (qPCR-detected Schistosoma DNA in any of 3 genital specimens).


The presence and concentration of key cervicovaginal species did not differ between participants with (n = 30) or without FGS (n = 158). A higher proportion of participants with FGS had T. vaginalis compared with FGS-negative women (P = .08), with further analysis showing that T. vaginalis was more prevalent among women with ≥2 Schistosoma qPCR-positive genital specimens (50.0%, 8/16) than among FGS-negative women (21.5%, 34/158; P = .01).


We found weak evidence of an association between the presence of T. vaginalis and FGS, with a stronger association in women with a higher-burden FGS infection. Additional research is needed on potential between-parasite interactions, especially regarding HIV-1 vulnerability.