The vagina morphological, functional and ecological aspects

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: The vagina is one organ of the body which has not been studied exhaustively. Moreover, most of the studies found in the contemporary literature have been performed on women affected by a variety of genital diseases.In the present study the vaginal epithelium was examined with a histological method, morphometry, whereby cyclical changes related to hormonal variation during the menstrual cycle were demonstrated. Determination of the quantity of estrogen receptors in the vaginal epithelium on two occasions during the menstrual cycle revealed a significantly greater number in the follicular than in the luteal phase. The results of these studies indicate the presence of a menstrual variation in the vaginal epithelium comparable to that in the endometrium.Phenoxymethylpenicillin (pcV) was used as a marker substance to study the dynamics of the transport mechanisms into the vagina. PcV was found to accumulate in the vaginal fluid and high concentrations persisted for a long period of time. In hysterectomized women, the appearance of pcV in the vaginal fluid followed the same pattern. Consequently, the substance is transported through the vaginal wall and need not enter with the secretions from the internal genitalia. The greatest concentration of pcV was in the distal portion of the vagina, possibly due to the specific internal circulation of fluid within the vagina.Bacterial vaginosis as an example of an ‘ecological disease’ has been studied with regard to the formation of endotoxin, a constituent of the cell wall of Gram- negative bacteria. Large amounts of endotoxin were found and the clinical implication of this finding has been pointed out.Furthermore, the influence of pcV on the vaginal microbial flora of healthy women has been investigated. A change from a situation with predominance of lactobacilli to the appearance of Gram-negative rods was observed. In one of the women the lactobacilli disappeared completely and were replaced by E. coliand high levels of endotoxin in the vaginal fluid were found. This study demonstrates the complexity of the ecological balance of the vaginal microbial flora and illustrates the difficulty of defining a ‘normal’ vaginal condition. Is there any unquestionable state of ‘normality’ even in a healthy woman free from symptoms of genital disease?