It has been suggested that the human microbiome might be vertically transmitted from mother to offspring and that early colonizers may play a critical role in development of the immune system. Studies have shown limited support for the vertical transmission of the intestinal microbiota but the derivation of the vaginal microbiota remains largely unknown. Although the vaginal microbiota of children and reproductive age cis women differ in composition, the vaginal microbiota could be vertically transmitted. To determine whether there was any support for this hypothesis, we examined the vaginal microbiota of daughter-mother pairs from the Baltimore metropolitan area (ages 14-27, 32-51; n=39). We assessed whether the daughter’s microbiota was similar in composition to their mother’s using metataxonomics. Permutation tests revealed that while some pairs did have similar vaginal microbiota, the degree of similarity did not exceed that expected by chance. Genome-resolved metagenomics was used to identify shared bacterial strains in a subset of the families (n=22). We found a small number of bacterial strains that were shared between mother-daughter pairs but identified more shared strains between individuals from different families, indicating that vaginal bacteria may display biogeographic patterns. Earlier-in-life studies are needed to demonstrate vertical transmission of the vaginal microbiota.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.11.16.468914