Introduction

Although there is a considerable body of literature regarding the composition of the vaginal microflora, remarkably little is known of the microbiology of the vulva. A comprehensive understanding of vulvar microbial ecology is hindered by the anatomical reality that the vulva is likely not a single ecological niche, but rather a structure that includes many unique and diverse microbial habitats. From an ecological perspective, the vulva can be best thought of as a transitional zone between the arid desert of external skin surfaces and the tropical rainforest of the vagina. Thus, the microbial ecology of the vulva is not a single entity but a complex construction, the nature of which is likely to be revealed in interwoven yet distinctive parts, depending on: (i) the anatomical areas sampled, (ii) the methodology used to analyze the samples, and (iii) the ability to describe the evenness, composition, and richness of the microbial communities.

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