To determine whether different racial groups shared common types of vaginal microbiota, we characterized the composition and structure of vaginal bacterial communities in asymptomatic and apparently healthy Japanese women in Tokyo, Japan, and compared them with those of White and Black women from North America. The composition of vaginal communities was compared based on community profiles of terminal restriction fragments of 16S rRNA genes and phylogenetic analysis of cloned 16S rRNA gene sequences of the numerically dominant bacterial populations. The types of vaginal communities found in Japanese women were similar to those of Black and White women. As with White and Black women, most vaginal communities were dominated by lactobacilli, and only four species of Lactobacillus (Lactobacillus iners, Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus jensenii, and Lactobacillus gasseri) were commonly found. Communities dominated by multiple species of lactobacilli were common in Japanese and White women, but rare in Black women. The incidence, in Japanese women, of vaginal communities with several non-Lactobacillus species at moderately high frequencies was intermediate between Black women and White women. The limited number of community types found among women in different ethnic groups suggests that host genetic factors, including the innate and adaptive immune systems, may be more important in determining the species composition of vaginal bacterial communities than are cultural and behavioral differences.
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