Cervicovaginal Human Papillomavirus Genomes, Microbiota Composition and Cytokine Concentrations in South African Adolescents

The interaction between cervicovaginal virome, bacteriome and genital inflammation has not been extensively investigated. We assessed the vaginal DNA virome from 33 South African adolescents (15–19 years old) using shotgun DNA sequencing of purified virions. We present analyses of eukaryote-infecting DNA viruses, with a focus on human papillomavirus (HPV) genomes and relate these to the vaginal bacterial microbiota (assessed by 16S rRNA gene sequencing) and cytokines (assessed by Luminex). The DNA virome included single-stranded (Anelloviridae, Genomoviridae) and double-stranded DNA viruses (Adenoviridae, Alloherpesviridae, Herpesviridae, Marseilleviridae, Mimiviridae, Polyomaviridae, Poxviridae). We identified 110 unique, complete HPV genomes within two genera (Alphapapillomavirus and Gammapapillomavirus) representing 40 HPV types and 12 species. Of the 40 HPV types identified, 35 showed positive co-infection patterns with at least one other type, mainly HPV-16. HPV-35, a high-risk genotype currently not targeted by available vaccines, was the most prevalent HPV type identified in this cohort. Bacterial taxa commonly associated with bacterial vaginosis also correlated with the presence of HPV. Bacterial vaginosis, rather than HPV, was associated with increased genital inflammation. This study lays the foundation for future work characterizing the vaginal virome and its role in women’s health.