Recent culture-independent studies have revealed that a healthy vaginal ecosystem harbors a surprisingly complex assemblage of microorganisms. However, the spatial distribution and composition of vaginal microbial populations have not been investigated using molecular methods. Here, we evaluated site-specific microbial composition within the vaginal ecosystem and examined the influence of sampling technique in detection of the vaginal microbiota. 16S rRNA gene clone libraries were prepared from samples obtained from different locations (cervix, fornix, outer vaginal canal) and by different methods (swabbing, scraping, lavaging) from the vaginal tracts of eight clinically healthy, asymptomatic women. The data reveal that the vaginal microbiota is not homogenous throughout the vaginal tract but differs significantly within an individual with regard to anatomical site and sampling method used. Thus, this study illuminates the complex structure of the vaginal ecosystem and calls for the consideration of microenvironments when sampling vaginal microbiota as a clinical predictor of vaginal health
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