Women with bacterial vaginosis (BV), an imbalance of the vaginal microbiome, are more likely to be colonized by potential pathogens such as Fusobacterium nucleatum, a bacterium linked with intrauterine infection and preterm birth. However, the conditions and mechanisms supporting pathogen colonization during vaginal dysbiosis remain obscure. We demonstrate that sialidase activity, a diagnostic feature of BV, promoted F. nucleatum foraging and growth on mammalian sialoglycans, a nutrient resource that was otherwise inaccessible because of the lack of endogenous F. nucleatum sialidase. In mice with sialidase-producing vaginal microbiotas, mutant F. nucleatum unable to consume sialic acids was impaired in vaginal colonization. These experiments in mice also led to the discovery that F. nucleatum may also “give back” to the community by reinforcing sialidase activity, a biochemical feature of human dysbiosis. Using human vaginal bacterial communities, we show that F. nucleatum supported robust outgrowth of Gardnerella vaginalis, a major sialidase producer and one of the most abundant organisms in BV.
Read more at: PLOS Biology