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Add penis bacteria to the list of HIV risk factors

Microbes that thrive in oxygen-poor places may lure virus’s prey: vulnerable immune cells

12:33pm, July 25, 2017

BAD BACTERIA  Bacteria such as Prevotella (shown) are anaerobes — they can survive without oxygen. An increase in anaerobic bacteria on the penis raises the risk of HIV infection, a new study suggests.

Out-of-whack microbes in the vagina can raise HIV risk — and now there’s evidence that the makeup of the penis microbiome matters, too. The greater the number of anaerobic bacteria tucked under the foreskin, the more likely an uncircumcised man is to become infected with the virus, researchers report July 25 in mBio.

“This mirrors what’s been seen in women, but it’s the first study of its kind in men,” says Deborah Anderson, a microbiologist and gynecologist at Boston University School of Medicine.

The data come from heterosexual Ugandan men followed for two years as part of a larger study on circumcision. Researchers swabbed the men’s penises to collect bacteria samples at the beginning of the two-year study. Then they compared the penile bacterial composition of the 46 uncircumcised men who became infected

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