We investigated the presence, density and bacterial composition of contraceptive vaginal ring biomass and its association with the vaginal microbiome. Of 415 rings worn by 120 Rwandese women for three weeks, the biomass density was assessed with crystal violet and the bacterial composition of biomass eluates was assessed with quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). The biomass was visualised after fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) and with scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The vaginal microbiome was assessed with Nugent scoring and vaginal biofilm was visualised after FISH. All vaginal rings were covered with biomass (mean optical density (OD) of 3.36; standard deviation (SD) 0.64). Lactobacilli were present on 93% of the rings, Gardnerella vaginalis on 57%, and Atopobium vaginae on 37%. The ring biomass density was associated with the concentration of A. vaginae (OD +0.03; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.01-0.05 for one log increase; p = 0.002) and of G. vaginalis (OD +0.03; (95% CI 0.01-0.05; p = 0.013). The density also correlated with Nugent score: rings worn by women with a BV Nugent score (mean OD +0.26), and intermediate score (mean OD +0.09) had a denser biomass compared to rings worn by participants with a normal score (p = 0.002). Furthermore, presence of vaginal biofilm containing G. vaginalis (p = 0.001) and A. vaginae (p = 0.005) correlated with a denser ring biomass (mean OD +0.24 and +0.22 respectively). With SEM we observed either a loose network of elongated bacteria or a dense biofilm. We found a correlation between vaginal dysbiosis and the density and composition of the ring biomass, and further research is needed to determine if these relationships are causal. As multipurpose vaginal rings to prevent pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases are being developed, the potential impact of ring biomass on the vaginal microbiota and the release of active pharmaceutical ingredients should be researched in depth.
- Journal Article