What is microbial load?
Microbial load helps to provide a more complete picture of your vaginal microbiome. Microbial load results are split into two parts:
- Bacterial load: an indication of the total amount of bacteria present in your vagina.
- Fungal load: an indication of the total amount of fungi present in your vagina.
The microbial load results can help you to understand if your total quantities of bacteria and fungi are normal or if they are higher or lower than they should be!
How does this improve your vaginal microbiome test results?
The Juno Vaginal Microbiome Test has always reported the types of microbes present in the sample and their relative abundance.
For example, if you have a relative abundance of 80% Lactobacillus crispatus, that means that 80% of all of the bacteria in your vagina are a species called Lactobacillus crispatus but it doesn’t tell you how much bacteria you have in total.
Similarly, your results may show that you have a relative abundance of 100% Candida albicans. As Candida albicans is the main cause of Yeast Infections, this might seem a little alarming! However, this just means that Candida albicans was the only fungus present, therefore it makes up 100% of all fungi found in your vagina. You could still have a very small amount of Candida albicans in total.
What does microbial load look like?
Your bacterial load will be categorized as either “Low”, “Normal”, “Elevated” or “High”.
- Normal: A normal amount of protective bacteria is necessary to prevent vaginal or urinary tract infections.
- Low: Low bacterial load may be caused by hormonal changes or imbalances, or by recent antibiotic use. It can lead to increased susceptibility to vaginal or urinary tract infections.
- Elevated: Elevated bacterial load is normal for many women in the absence of symptoms and disruptive bacteria. However, it is associated with conditions such as Bacterial Vaginosis and Cytolytic Vaginosis.
- High: High bacterial load is an indicator of bacterial “overgrowth”. It is associated with conditions such as Bacterial Vaginosis and Cytolytic Vaginosis.
Your fungal load will be categorized as either “Normal”, “Elevated” or “High”.
- Normal: Fungal load is normally zero but a small amount can often be found in a healthy vagina too.
- Elevated: Elevated fungal load can be normal in the absence of symptoms, but is associated with Yeast Infections.
- High: High fungal load is an indicator of fungal “overgrowth”. It is associated with Yeast Infections.
Why is your microbial load important?
There are many cases when knowing your microbial load can be helpful. Here are just a few of the most important examples.
Cytolytic Vaginosis is an underdiagnosed condition caused by an overgrowth of good bacteria called lactobacilli. Without bacterial load data, it can be difficult to detect cytolytic vaginosis, as having a high percentage of lactobacilli is generally considered to be a good thing. However, with bacterial load data, you can see if your lactobacilli are in overgrowth.
Bacterial Vaginosis can be caused by bacteria which are sometimes disruptive and sometimes not. High bacterial load suggests bacterial overgrowth and can help you to understand if you might have Bacterial Vaginosis.
A reduction in estrogen levels caused by menopause can lead to vaginal atrophy, e.g. thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal walls. It also leads to a reduction in the production of glycogen - the stuff that feeds good bacteria in your vagina - and therefore a reduction in your bacterial load. Low bacterial load can leave you susceptible to infections of the vagina and urinary tract.
A small amount of yeast can often be found in a healthy vaginal microbiome. However, high levels of yeast are associated with a Yeast Infection. Your fungal load can help you to tell if your level of yeast is cause for concern or not.
How do I find out my microbial load?
To find out what your microbial load is and what it means for you, try the Juno Vaginal Microbiome Test.