Microbiology Time

This month we dig into salivary micro-RNA as a liquid biopsy marker in oral cancer, different methods of offering HPV self-sampling kits, and the benefits of probiotics in improving vaginal microbiota composition in post-menopausal women.

  • The first study investigates the use of salivary cell-free miRNA as a liquid biopsy marker in cancer. The researchers focused on establishing reproducible methods for saliva manipulation to control pre-analytical variables affecting miRNA stability. Saliva samples from healthy subjects and oral cancer patients were collected using two methods (spit and LolliSponge), and storage conditions were varied. Quantifying the salivary expression level of target miRNAs by qPCR, the study found comparable levels between the two collection methods. MiRNAs remained stable for up to 48 hours at 4 ◦C but showed significant alterations after 96 hours. Mid-term storage at -20 ◦C decreased miRNA stability compared to -80 ◦C. The study concludes that cell-free miRNA in saliva, though slightly affected by collection methods and storage conditions, remains stable for a duration compatible with clinical routine needs.
  • In the second study, the US researchers performed a randomized clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of different approaches for offering HPV self-sampling kits to individuals based on their cervical cancer screening history (screening-adherent and currently due, overdue, or unknown). The individuals were stratified to receive usual care, education, direct mail with a self-sampling kit, and an opt-in option. The results also showed that direct-mail self-sampling significantly increased cervical cancer screening by over 14% in individuals who were due or overdue. At the same time, the opt-in approach had minimal impact. The study suggests prioritizing direct-mail outreach for those due or overdue for screening to enhance adherence, while for individuals with unknown screening history, alternative outreach approaches and efforts to document screening history are recommended.
  • The third study is a prospective observational clinical trial conducted in Italy, aiming at investigating the benefits of probiotics in improving vaginal well-being and microbiota composition in post-menopausal women. The study enrolled 50 healthy post-menopausal women who took a supplement containing specific probiotic strains for 28 days. Results showed a decrease in menopausal symptoms, with significant improvements in the Vaginal Health Index (VHI) score by 50%, a reduction in inflammatory cytokine levels, and restoration of vaginal microbiota, including an increase in lactobacilli abundance. The study suggests that the tested probiotic strains, previously effective in childbearing-age women, are also beneficial for post-menopausal women, demonstrating improvements in both vaginal well-being and microbiota composition.

Read the full studies: