Research Highlight

Biology—Telltale microbes


A new process to identify certain microbes in women could be used to diagnose endometriosis without invasive surgery, even before symptoms start. A collaborative research team analyzed bacteria from a small sample of premenopausal women undergoing laparoscopic surgery for suspected endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when the uterus’ lining grows outside the uterus, resulting in painful lesions and possible infertility. Researchers from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Michigan State University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory studied microbes from women with and without endometriosis and compared bacteria from the uterus with vaginal microbes. “We determined that the uterine microbiome is not simply a subset of the vaginal microbiome and that microbial diversity increased with stage III endometriosis,” said ORNL’s Melissa Cregger, lead author of a pilot study published in Reproductive Immunology. The team plans to further analyze the microbiome to diagnosis ovarian and endometrial cancers and evaluate responses to treatment.