Presence and persistence of putative lytic and temperate bacteriophages in vaginal metagenomes from south african adolescents

Anna Ursula Happel, Christina Balle, Brandon S. Maust, Iyaloo N. Konstantinus, Katherine Gill, Linda Gail Bekker, Rémy Froissart, Jo Ann Passmore, Ulas Karaoz, Arvind Varsani, Heather Jaspan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The interaction between gut bacterial and viral microbiota is thought to be important in human health. While fluctuations in female genital tract (FGT) bacterial microbiota similarly deter-mine sexual health, little is known about the presence, persistence, and function of vaginal bacteri-ophages. We conducted shotgun metagenome sequencing of cervicovaginal samples from South African adolescents collected longitudinally, who received no antibiotics. We annotated viral reads and circular bacteriophages, identified CRISPR loci and putative prophages, and assessed their di-versity, persistence, and associations with bacterial microbiota composition. Siphoviridae was the most prevalent bacteriophage family, followed by Myoviridae, Podoviridae, Herelleviridae, and Inoviri-dae. Full-length siphoviruses targeting bacterial vaginosis (BV)-associated bacteria were identified, suggesting their presence in vivo. CRISPR loci and prophage-like elements were common, and genomic analysis suggested higher diversity among Gardnerella than Lactobacillus prophages. We found that some prophages were highly persistent within participants, and identical prophages were present in cervicovaginal secretions of multiple participants, suggesting that prophages, and thus bacterial strains, are shared between adolescents. The number of CRISPR loci and prophages were associated with vaginal microbiota stability and absence of BV. Our analysis suggests that (pro)phages are common in the FGT and vaginal bacteria and (pro)phages may interact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2341
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Bacteriophages
  • Lytic
  • Prophages
  • Stability
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Vaginal microbiota

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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