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Comparison of vaginal microbiota sampling techniques: Cytobrush versus swab

Mitra, Anita; MacIntyre, David A.; Mahajan, Vishakha; Lee, Yun S.; Smith, Ann; Marchesi, Julian R.; Lyons, Deirdre; Bennett, Phillip R.; Kyrgiou, Maria


Anita Mitra

David A. MacIntyre

Vishakha Mahajan

Yun S. Lee

Ann Smith

Julian R. Marchesi

Deirdre Lyons

Phillip R. Bennett

Maria Kyrgiou


© 2017 The Author(s). Evidence suggests the vaginal microbiota (VM) may influence risk of persistent Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical carcinogenesis. Established cytology biobanks, typically collected with a cytobrush, constitute a unique resource to study such associations longitudinally. It is plausible that compared to rayon swabs; the most commonly used sampling devices, cytobrushes may disrupt biofilms leading to variation in VM composition. Cervico-vaginal samples were collected with cytobrush and rayon swabs from 30 women with high-grade cervical precancer. Quantitative PCR was used to compare bacterial load and Illumina MiSeq sequencing of the V1-V3 regions of the 16S rRNA gene used to compare VM composition. Cytobrushes collected a higher total bacterial load. Relative abundance of bacterial species was highly comparable between sampling devices (R 2 = 0.993). However, in women with a Lactobacillus-depleted, high-diversity VM, significantly less correlation in relative species abundance was observed between devices when compared to those with a Lactobacillus species-dominant VM (p = 0.0049). Cytobrush and swab sampling provide a comparable VM composition. In a small proportion of cases the cytobrush was able to detect underlying high-diversity community structure, not realized with swab sampling. This study highlights the need to consider sampling devices as potential confounders when comparing multiple studies and datasets.


Mitra, A., MacIntyre, D. A., Mahajan, V., Lee, Y. S., Smith, A., Marchesi, J. R., …Kyrgiou, M. (2017). Comparison of vaginal microbiota sampling techniques: Cytobrush versus swab. Scientific Reports, 7(1),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 31, 2017
Online Publication Date Aug 29, 2017
Publication Date Dec 1, 2017
Deposit Date Oct 2, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 4, 2019
Journal Scientific Reports
Electronic ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Research (part of Springer Nature)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 1
Public URL


Comparison of vaginal microbiota sampling techniques: cytobrush versus swab (2.8 Mb)


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