Vaginal microbiota differences associated with pelvic organ prolapse risk during late gestation in commercial sows

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Kiefer, Zoë
Koester, Lucas
Studer, Jamie
Chipman, Amanda
Mainquist-Whigham, Christine
Keating, Aileen
Schmitz-Esser, Stephan
Ross, Jason
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Animal ScienceVeterinary Microbiology and Preventive MedicineMicrobiologyIowa Pork Industry Center
During the last decade, sow mortality due to pelvic organ prolapse (POP) has increased. To better understand the biology associated with POP, sows were phenotypically assessed and assigned a perineal score (PS) based on presumed POP risk and categorized as PS1 (low), PS2 (moderate), or PS3 (high). The study objective was to identify changes in sow vaginal microbiota that may be associated with POP. The hypothesis is that vaginal microbiota differs between sows with variable risk for POP, and changes in microbiota during late gestation exist between sows with differing risk. Of the 2864 sows scored during gestation week 15, 1.0, 2.7, and 23.4% of PS1, PS2, and PS3 sows, respectively, subsequently experienced POP. Vaginal swabs subjected to 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed differences in community composition (Bray–Curtis; P < 0.05) and individual operational taxonomic unit (OTU) comparisons between vaginal microbiota of PS1 and PS3 sows at gestation week 15. Further, differences (P < 0.05) in community composition and OTUs (Q < 0.05) were observed in PS3 sows that either did or did not subsequently experience POP. Differences in community structure (alpha diversity measurements; P < 0.05), composition (P < 0.05), and OTUs (Q < 0.05) were observed in gestation week 12 sows scored PS1 compared to week 15 sows scored PS1 or PS3, suggesting that sow vaginal microbiota shifts during late gestation differently as POP risk changes. Collectively, these data demonstrate that sows with greater POP risk have unique vaginal microflora, for which a better understanding could aid in the development of mitigation strategies.
This article is published as Kiefer, Zoë E., Lucas R. Koester, Jamie M. Studer, Amanda L. Chipman, Christine Mainquist-Whigham, Aileen F. Keating, Stephan Schmitz-Esser, and Jason W. Ross. "Vaginal microbiota differences associated with pelvic organ prolapse risk during late gestation in commercial sows." Biology of Reproduction 105, no. 6 (2021): 1545-1561. doi:10.1093/biolre/ioab178. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.