New Systems for Studying Intercellular Interactions in Bacterial Vaginosis

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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) affects almost a quarter of US women, making it a condition of major public health relevance. Key questions remain regarding the etiology of BV, mechanisms for its association with poor reproductive health outcomes, and reasons for high rates of treatment failure. New model systems are required to answer these remaining questions, elucidate the complex host-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions, and develop new, effective interventions. In this review, we cover the strengths and limitations of in vitro and in vivo model systems to study these complex intercellular interactions. Furthermore, we discuss advancements needed to maximize the translational utility of the model systems. As no single model can recapitulate all of the complex physiological and environmental conditions of the human vaginal microenvironment, we conclude that combinatorial approaches using in vitro and in vivo model systems will be required to address the remaining fundamental questions surrounding the enigma that is BV.

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