Health

Should You Get Your Vaginal Microbiome Analyzed?

gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== Should You Get Your Vaginal Microbiome Analyzed?

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The bacteria and other microbes that live in the vagina are hugely important to our health, but (like the microbes in other parts of the body) they’re not very well understood. Now, a company is offering free vaginal microbiome reports to women who join their study.

The company is Juno Bio, a startup aiming to study the vaginal microbiome. Their website doesn’t get specific about exactly what questions the study aims to answer, but they point to bacterial vaginosis and infertility as problems worth studying. The plan seems to be to use machine learning to make sense of the microbiome, which is hugely complex and varies from person to person and day to day.

Right now, knowing what’s in your microbiome (vaginal or otherwise) isn’t going to give you any actionable data about your health. Years ago, when I was pregnant, I participated in a similar study. I sent in my swabs, and excitedly opened the email I got a few weeks later, only to see … a list of bacterial taxa. Great? The results were fascinating in an “ooh, science!” kind of way (I’m a nerd), but we just don’t know enough about the microbiome to really do anything with that information on an individual level.

Juno emphasizes that their test is not diagnostic. In other words, you won’t learn whether you have any health issues. (In fact, they’re more likely to ask you about your health issues: The study involves filling out a questionnaire.) The company clarified in a Reddit post that participants’ personal information is kept confidential, and that the data is detached from your name after they send you your results.

So, if you’re curious about your microbiome and want to give a company some of your data points without knowing exactly what might result, the signup link is here. They are enrolling women who are at least 19 years old and who live in the continental US. (The company wrote on Reddit that “we could improve some of language around eligibility to make this more inclusive of our trans and non-binary friends” but their form still includes a required checkbox stating “I am a woman.”)

Updated 11/13/2019 at 4:54pm to clarify that Juno describes one of their eligibility criteria as being a “woman.”


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