A discussion has evolved regarding the role of glycosulfatase in bacterial vaginosisGlycosulfatase is an enzyme that breaks down mucous, called a mucolytic enzyme. This reduces the mucosal barrier protection in the vagina by thinning out the mucous. This is what the typically watery discharge is in bacterial vaginosis. 

Some bacteria excrete such enzymes, with a certain glycosidase involved being sialidase, which is frequently associated with BV organisms. A synergistic enzymatic activity may exist between bacteria in BV to take control of the vagina. The bacteria do this by dissolving the mucosal barrier and adhering to the vaginal cells, though we’re not sure exactly how this process works specifically. What we do know is that bacterial mesogens may play a significant role in the colonisation of BV bacteria.

This research looked into whether glycosulfatase – a mucolytic enzyme – targeted towards sulfated oligosaccharide side chains is also associated with BV. Glycosulfatases work like this in the digestive tract.

The study
Sixty-one women between the ages of 16 to 50 years were studied. Thirty-one were graded as having no BV (grade I), four had intermediate flora (grade II), and 24 were graded as having BV (grade III). Two were later excluded from the study.

Results
    • The BV subjects had a median glycosulfatase activity of 8.5 (range -1.2 to 31.9)
    • The 35 non-BV subjects had a median glycosulfatase activity of 0.5 (range -0.7 to 9.4)
    • The BV subjects had a median glycoprotein sialidase activity of 29.2 (range -17 to 190) in a high vaginal swab
    • The 35 subjects without BV had a median glycoprotein sialidase activity of -1.1 (range -41 to 48)
    • In individuals with BV, there was a positive correlation of glycoprotein sialidase activity compared with glycosulfate activity
    • A positive spot test was found in 22 out of 24 BV subjects
    • A negative spot test was found in 32 of 35 non-BV subjects
    • There was a significantly correlation between sialidase spot tests and sialidase activity
    • A further enzyme was found to be involved in the overall process of mucin degradation and that it was highly associated with BV
    • Glycosufatase activity was highly associated with BV
    • Some samples were found negative for glycoprotein sialidase, but showed an unknown substance

References
A Novel Bacterial Mucinase, Glycosulfatase, Is Associated with Bacterial Vaginosis, Anthony M. Roberton, Rebecca Wiggins, Patrick J. Horner, Rosemary Greenwood, Theresa Crowley, Arnold Fernandes, Monica Berry and Anthony P. Corfield, Journal of Clinical Microbiology, November 2005 43:11 5504-5508; doi: 10.1128/JCM.43.11.5504-5508.2005

 

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