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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Bacteria in the healthy equine vagina during the estrous cycle

Malaluang, Pongpreecha; Åkerholm, Timjan; Nyman, Görel; Lindahl, Johanna; Hansson, Ingrid; Morrell, Jane


An understanding of the normal bacterial microbiota of any organ is essential to provide the background to conditions and interventions that might cause the microbiota to change. In the vagina of the mare, a change of bacterial microbiota could be induced by introduction of semen, treatment with antibiotics, discharge from an unhealthy uterus etc. Previous studies on equine vaginal bacteria are not all conducted in the same way and results are not altogether consistent. Therefore, this study was designed to provide a deeper understanding of the bacterial microbiota of the mare vagina, and possible changes throughout the estrous cycle. The cranial portion of the vagina was sampled on day 0 (ovulation), day 3, day 7, and day 14 of the estrous cycle. The vaginal sampling was conducted with double-guarded occluded swabs from the cranial floor of the vagina. Ovulation was determined by rectal palpation and ultrasonic examination, and the day 0 samples were taken within ±24 h of ovulation. Swabs were brought to the laboratory in Amies medium within 2–3 h and were plated out immediately on both selective and non-selective agars. Results were registered as amount of growth (qualitatively), bacterial species and number of isolates. Bacterial growth was highest on day 3 and 7, representing the beginning and middle of diestrus. The dominant bacteria were Escherichia coli and Streptococcus zooepidemicus. Escherichia coli was especially dominant in maiden mares, compared to the mares that had foaled. An increase in bacterial diversity throughout the estrous cycle was observed, being highest on day 14. These results suggest that there are changes in the bacterial microbiota of the mare vagina throughout the normal estrous cycle.


Equine reproduction; Vaginal microbiota; Progesterone dominance; MALDI-TOF

Published in

2024, Volume: 213, pages: 11-18