Microbial communities of the urogenital tract have long been recognised to play an important role in disease states. A revolution in methodological approaches is permitting the assessment of complex urogenital tract microbiota–host interactions and the metabolic and protein milieu of the mucosal interface. There is now great potential for significant advances in biomarker discovery and disease risk stratification, and for the elucidation of mechanisms underpinning the microbial community dynamics involved in urogenital tract pathology. Microbiota–host interactions in the female genital tract have a particular significance, because unlike in the male, there is direct communication between the external genitalia, the uterus and the peritoneal cavity. This review examines the microbial community composition at differing sites of the female urogenital tract and its relationship with health and disease. Key factors involved in the modulation of vaginal microbiome stability and structure, such as endocrine, immune and inflammatory pathways, are considered in the context of a woman's life cycle and disease pathogenesis.

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