Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Miles City, Montana » Livestock and Range Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #308814

Research Project: Alleviating Rate Limiting Factors that Compromise Beef Production Efficiency

Location: Livestock and Range Research Laboratory

Title: Characterization of the vaginal microbiota of ewes and cows reveals a unique microbiota with low levels of lactobacilli and near-neutral pH

Author
item SWARTZ, JEFFERY - Montana State University
item LACHMAN, MEDORA - Montana State University
item WESTVEER, KELSEY - Montana State University
item O'NEILL, THOMAS - Montana State University
item Geary, Thomas
item KOTT, RODNEY - Montana State University
item BERARDINELLI, JAMES - Montana State University
item HATFIELD, PATRICK - Montana State University
item THOMSON, JENNIFER - Montana State University
item Roberts, Andrew - Andy
item YEOMAN, CARL - Montana State University

Submitted to: Frontiers in Veterinary Infectious Diseases
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/30/2014
Publication Date: 10/15/2014
Citation: Swartz, J.D., Lachman, M., Westveer, K., O'Neill, T., Geary, T.W., Kott, R.W., Berardinelli, J.G., Hatfield, P.G., Thomson, J.M., Roberts, A.J., Yeoman, C.J. 2014. Characterization of the vaginal microbiota of ewes and cows reveals a unique microbiota with low levels of lactobacilli and near-neutral pH. Frontiers in Veterinary Infectious Diseases. 1(19):1-10.

Interpretive Summary: Although a number of common reproductive disorders in livestock involve bacterial infection, very little is known about their normal vaginal microbiota. Therefore, we sought to determine the species composition of sheep and cattle vaginal microbiota. Cow and ewe vaginal microbiota exhibited few differences. Communities identified in both livestock species differed from all previously reported vaginal communities. While bacteria were numerically dominant, Archaea were detected in 95% of cow and ewe samples. The method of sampling and laboratory analysis used in this research determined that cow and ewe vaginal microbiota differ from culture-led results, revealing a microbiota distinct from previously described vaginal ecosystems. This basic knowledge of the vaginal microbiota provides the background required to begin investigations into the role that changes in vaginal microbiota have in reproductive disorders.

Technical Abstract: Human vaginal microbiota affect reproductive performance and perinatal health. Although a number of common reproductive disorders in livestock involve bacterial infection, very little is known about their normal vaginal microbiota. Therefore, we sought to determine the species composition of sheep and cattle vaginal microbiota. Twenty Rambouillet ewes and twenty crossbred cows varying in age and reproductive status were sampled by ectocervicovaginal lavage. We amplified and sequenced the V3-V4 region of the 16S ribosomal RNA contents yielding a total of 907,667 high quality reads. Good's Coverage estimates indicated that we obtained data on 98 +/- 0.01 % of the total microbial genera present in each sample. Cow and ewe vaginal microbiota exhibited few differences. Cow microbiota exhibited greater (P = 0.05) alpha-diversity compared to the ewe microbiota. Both livestock species differed (P = 0.05) from all previously reported vaginal communities. While bacteria were numerically dominant, Archaea were detected in 95% of cow and ewe samples, mainly of the order Desulfurococcales. Both ewes and cows were predominately colonized by the bacterial phyla Bacteroidetes, Fusobacteria, and Proteobacteria. The most abundant genera were Aggregatibacter spp., and Streptobacillus spp. Lactobacillus ssp. were detected in 80% of ewe and 90% of cow samples, but only at very low abundances. Bacteria previously described from culture-based studies as common to the cow and ewe vaginal tract, except for Escherichia, were variably present, and only in low abundance. Ewe and cow pH differed (P = 0.05), with means (+/- standard deviation) of 6.7 +/- 0.38 and 7.3 +/- 0.63, respectively. In conclusion, 16S rRNA sequencing of cow and ewe vaginal ectocervicovaginal lavages showed that cow and ewe vaginal microbiota differ from culture-led results, revealing a microbiota distinct from previously described vaginal ecosystems.