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Burnet Microbiome Initiative: Vaginal microbiome in pregnant women in PNG and impact on birth weight and infant growth

Non-optimal cervicovaginal microbiota are associated with adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes. However, the nature of the vaginal microbiome in Papua New Guinean women and its role in protecting against or increasing vulnerability to these outcomes are unknown. 

This initiative will advance knowledge of the diversity of vaginal microbiota in women in Papua New Guinea and build our capacity in microbiome research.

We will analyse samples from the Burnet’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) Program that aims to identify preventable causes of low birth weight and poor infant growth. This study followed 699 women and their infants from pregnancy through to 12 months after birth. Mid-vaginal swabs were collected at the first antenatal visit and post birth as well as extensive demographic, behavioural and clinical data. Eleven percent of babies in this study were low birth weight.  We will define the composition of maternal vaginal microbiota in pregnancy using next generation sequencing technology and identify classes of vaginal microbiota associated with reduced infant birth weight and growth trajectories.

Therapies, such as live biotherapeutics, that aim to alter the microbiota are in pre-clinical development and some have entered clinical trials. Therefore, a detailed knowledge of microbiota features, which pre-dispose mothers to poorer infant growth outcomes, will inform the development of optimal interventions and therapies. These features may also identify biomarkers that could be used as a prognostic to predict if a woman is at high risk of adverse birth outcomes enabling targeted therapeutic intervention.

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Professor Gilda Tachedjian

Contact Professor Gilda Tachedjian for more information about this project.

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Doctor Joshua Hayward

Contact Doctor Joshua Hayward for more information about this project. 


Burnet Microbiome Initiative

The role of the vaginal microbiome in protecting against or increasing susceptibility to sexually transmitted infection (STIs) and adverse reproductive health outcomes (such as preterm delivery and low birth weight) is unknown in this cohort of women.


  • Ferring

Partners +

  • Dr Michelle Scoullar
  • Dr Paul Agius
  • Professor Catriona Bradshaw
  • Professor James Beeson
  • Professor Freya Fowkes
  • Dr Philippe Boeuf