According to an Aussie researcher, a bacteria present in the fluid near the ovaries may reduce a woman's chances of becoming pregnant via in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Dr. Christine Knox, a microbiologist at Queensland University of Technology, says that this finding contrasts the traditional view that fluid surrounding the ovum, known as follicular fluid, is sterile.
In her opinion, the study can help increase the success rates of assisted reproductive technologies (ART).
She also believes that the bacteria could be responsible for infertility cases that have no apparent cause.
For the study, Knox, along with researchers at the Wesley Monash IVF clinic, tested the fluid surrounding individual eggs taken from the ovaries of 31 women undergoing ART.
The researchers found that 21 of the samples had bacteria in the follicular fluid.
Knox said that the findings was startling because "traditionally it was assumed the fluid surrounding the ovum was sterile."
The researchers even revealed that the finding was later replicated in a larger study, wherein they analyzed the follicular fluid of 148 women and found bacteria in the fluid of all but one woman.
Further tests showed that, in some cases, the bacteria had been transferred from the lower genital tract to the follicular fluid during the medical procedure used to collect eggs known as transvaginal oocyte retrieval (TVOR).
But in 52 of the women, the follicular fluid contained bacteria that were not found in the lower tract.
According to Knox, the unique, colonizing bacteria appear to play a role in reducing pregnancy outcomes.
She said that only 25 percent of women with follicular fluid colonized by this bacteria, had achieved a successful pregnancy.
"We also found that eggs from women with colonized follicular fluid had a lower rate of fertilization to start with, which, of course, meant they produced fewer embryos for transfer to the womb," the ABC quoted her as saying.
Knox said that they were working towards pinpointing the strain of bacteria that led to the reduced pregnancy outcomes, which could help them screen women for their presence.