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Nearly all cervical cancers are causally associated with human papillomavirus (HPV). The burden of HPV-associated dysplasias in sub-Saharan Africa is influenced by HIV. To investigate the role of the bacterial microbiome in cervical dysplasia, cytobrush samples were collected directly from cervical lesions of 144 Tanzanian women. The V4 hypervariable region of the 16S rRNA gene was amplified and deep sequenced. Alpha diversity metrics (Chao1, PD whole tree, and operational taxonomic unit [OTU] estimates) displayed significantly higher bacterial richness in HIV-positive patients (P = 0.01) than in HIV-negative patients. In HIV-positive patients, there was higher bacterial richness in patients with high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (HSIL) (P = 0.13) than those without lesions. The most abundant OTUs associated with high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions were Mycoplasmatales, Pseudomonadales, and Staphylococcus. We suggest that a chronic mycoplasma infection of the cervix may contribute to HPV-dependent dysplasia by sustained inflammatory signals.
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