By Matthew Sedacca
In recent years scientists studying genital microbiomes have focused on the possible connection between HIV incidence in men and the penile microbiome, the community of microorganisms living on the penis.
A number of studies have investigated how circumcision affects HIV incidence in men, but few have focused on the penile microbiome. A 2007 study showed an association between male circumcision and reduced HIV incidence in Ugandan men and a 2010 paper found that circumcision was associated with a decrease of anaerobic bacteria—microbes that thrive in areas deprived of oxygen such as what you might find underneath the foreskin—on the penises of HIV-negative men. In a study published this week in mBio, researchers sought to follow up on these studies by investigating and quantifying the relationship between anaerobic bacteria in the penile microbiome and HIV risk. The findings suggest certain microbial strains likely increase the risk of uncircumcised men contracting HIV.
Jared Baeten, Vice Chair of the Department of Global Health and Professor of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology, and Global Health, is quoted in this story.