- Women with polycystic ovarian
syndrome (PCOS) have a less diverse composition of bacteria in the gut.
- Women with PCOS are at risk for
diabetes, infertility and psychological issues including anxiety and
- Elevated testosterone levels
associated with PCOS may be the cause of the less diverse microbiome.
Women who have a common hormone condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome
(PCOS) have a less diverse composition of bacteria in the gut compared to women
who do not have PCOS, suggests a new study published in the Endocrine
Society's Journal of Clinical
Endocrinology & Metabolism
PCOS is a hormonal condition that affects 7% to 10% of women of
childbearing age, according to the Hormone Health Network. Women with PCOS have
an increased risk of developing metabolic problems including diabetes.
Reproductive issues like fertility and psychological issues including anxiety
and depression are also common among women with PCOS.
A diagnosis of PCOS requires at least two of the three key features of
The research team set out to examine the effect of
PCOS on the gut microbiome. The diversity of bacteria in the gastrointestinal
tract play an important role in overall human health. Previous studies have
indicated that there are significantly different gut bacteria in individuals
with metabolic conditions such as obesity and diabetes
compared to individuals who do not have
‘Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have an altered, less diverse composition of gut microbiome compared to women without PCOS.’
The team examined fecal swabs from 73 women recruited from the Poznan
University of Medical Sciences in Poznan, Poland and diagnosed with PCOS. These
samples were compared to swabs of 48 women who did not have PCOS and 42 women
who had polycystic ovaries diagnosed using ultrasound imaging but did not have
the other features of PCOS.
Upon analysis, the study found that the group of women who had PCOS had
the least degree of gut microbiome diversity while women who did not have the
condition had the highest degree of diversity. Women who had characteristics of Polycystic ovaries
diagnosed by ultrasound had more microbiome diversity than women with PCOS, but
less than women without PCOS.
"Like other metabolic disorders, PCOS is associated with changes in
the composition of the microbiome," said the senior author, Varykina
Thackray, Ph.D., at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine
in La Jolla, California. "Our analysis indicates women with PCOS tend to
have less diverse populations of gut bacteria, a trend which appears to be
linked to elevated testosterone levels."
"Our findings suggest testosterone and other androgen hormones may
help shape the gut microbiome," Thackray said. "These changes may
influence the development of PCOS and the impact it has on a woman's quality of
life. Additional research is needed to determine whether specific gut bacterial
species contribute to the development of PCOS and whether the microbiome offers
potential pathways for treating the condition."
- Pedro J Torres et al, Gut Microbial Diversity in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Correlates with Hyperandrogenism, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (2018). DOI: 10.1210/jc.2017-02153