The Association Between Vaginal Microbiota Dysbiosis, Bacterial Vaginosis, and Aerobic Vaginitis, and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes of Women Living in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Systematic Review

Naomi C. A. Juliana, Meghan J. M. Suiters, Salwan Al-Nasiry, Servaas A. Morre, Remco P. H. Peters, Elena Ambrosino*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

13 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: Previous studies have described the association between dysbiosis of the vaginal microbiota (VMB) and related dysbiotic conditions, such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) and aerobic vaginitis (AV), and various adverse pregnancy outcomes. There is limited overview of this association from countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), which bear a disproportionally high burden of both vaginal dysbiotic conditions and adverse pregnancy outcomes. This systematic review assesses the evidence on the association between VMB dysbiosis, BV, and AV, and late adverse pregnancy outcomes in women living in SSA.

Methods: The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Statement (PRISMA) guidelines were followed. Three databases [PubMed, Embase (Ovid), and Cochrane] were used to retrieve observational and intervention studies conducted in SSA that associated VMB dysbiosis, BV, or AV and preterm birth/labor/delivery, preterm rupture of membranes (PROM), low birthweight, small for gestational age, intrauterine growth restriction, intrauterine infection, intrauterine (fetal) death, stillbirth, perinatal death, or perinatal mortality.

Results: Twelve studies out of 693 search records from five SSA countries were included. One study identified a positive association between VMB dysbiosis and low birthweight. Despite considerable differences in study design and outcome reporting, studies reported an association between BV and preterm birth (7/9), low birthweight (2/6), PROM (2/4), intrauterine infections (1/1), and small for gestational age (1/1). None of the retrieved studies found an association between BV and pregnancy loss (5/5) or intrauterine growth retardation (1/1). At least two studies support the association between BV and PROM, low birthweight, and preterm birth in Nigerian pregnant women. No reports were identified investigating the association between AV and late adverse pregnancy outcomes in SSA.

Conclusion: Two of the included studies from SSA support the association between BV and PROM. The remaining studies show discrepancies in supporting an association between BV and preterm birth or low birthweight. None of the studies found an association between BV and pregnancy loss. As for the role of VMB dysbiosis, BV, and AV during pregnancy among SSA women, additional research is needed. These results provide useful evidence for prevention efforts to decrease vaginal dysbiosis and its contribution to adverse pregnancy outcomes in SSA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number567885
Number of pages20
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2020


  • vaginal microbiota (VMB)
  • bacterial vaginosis (BV)
  • anaerobic vaginitis (AV)
  • vaginal dysbiosis
  • pregnancy outcomes
  • sub-saharan africa
  • microbiome
  • systematic review
  • RISK

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