Tag Archives: University of Exeter

Does COVID-19 Vaccination Cause Changes to Women’s Periods?

A recent study has concluded that there is no cause for alarm regarding changes to menstrual cycles due to the Covid-19 vaccination.

However, the study points out that women who have contracted the Covid-19 virus may experience an increased likelihood of disruptions in their menstrual cycle. These disruptions could manifest as skipped or heavier menstrual periods, or even bleeding between periods.

The research provides reassurance to women who might have avoided vaccination because they were concerned about the impact on their periods, the study says.

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Montpellier, Oxford, Bristol, and Exeter investigated results from a survey conducted in the UK in March 2021.

Participants were asked about any menstrual changes during the pandemic, their Covid-19 vaccination history, and whether they had ever had Covid-19.

The researchers examined results from almost 5,000 pre-menopausal participants who had been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The vast majority – 82 percent – reported no menstrual changes. Only 6.2 percent reported more disruption, 1.6 percent reported less disruption, and 10.2 percent reported ‘other changes’, which could refer to things like changes to cycle length and regularity, or amount of menstrual bleeding.

Of the 18 percent who reported changes, the risk was higher among those who smoked, previously had Covid-19, or who were not using oestradiol-containing contraceptives such as the combined contraceptive pill.

The researchers then looked at a wider group of 12,000 participants, including those who were vaccinated and unvaccinated against Covid-19.

Compared to those who were not vaccinated, and had never had Covid-19, vaccination alone did not show increased abnormal menstrual cycle factors. Those who had a history of Covid-19, however, were at increased risk of reporting heavier bleeding, missed periods, and bleeding between periods.

The study was carried out against a background of public concern that the Covid-19 pandemic had caused disruption to menstrual cycles due to vaccination, infection with the virus, and lifestyle changes.

There has been a lack of research into how much each factor has contributed to the changes and who is most at risk, but this research provides valuable information about the understudied area of periods and Covid-19, experts say.

The team hopes that the results will help healthcare professionals when counseling women about the relative risks of menstrual disturbance when getting vaccinated against Covid-19, compared with having the infection itself, and also help women make decisions about Covid-19 vaccination.

The findings have been published in the journal iScience.

Dr. Jackie Maybin, a principal investigator in the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, and one of the study authors, said: “These results rely on people recalling their previous menstrual experiences, and may include bias due to those who chose to complete the survey. Nevertheless, our results are reassuring that Covid-19 vaccination does not cause concerning menstrual changes, and helpful for identifying people who might be at higher risk of experiencing menstrual disturbance.”

Reference: “A retrospective case-control study on menstrual cycle changes following COVID-19 vaccination and disease” by Alexandra Alvergne, Gabriella Kountourides, M. Austin Argentieri, Lisa Agyen, Natalie Rogers, Dawn Knight, Gemma C. Sharp, Jacqueline A. Maybin, and Zuzanna Olszewska, 15 March 2023, iScience.
DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2023.106401

Harnessing Gene Editing in the Fight Against Antimicrobial Resistance

University of Exeter researchers have used the CRISPR-Cas gene editing system to create a plasmid that targets antibiotic resistance genes, effectively preventing and reversing resistance. The tool shows promising early results in laboratory experiments, opening up a potential new way to combat the global health threat of antimicrobial resistance.

A new tool that could help reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance is showing early promise, through exploiting a bacterial immune system as a gene editing tool.

Antimicrobial resistance is a major global threat, with nearly five million deaths annually resulting from antibiotics failing to treat infection, according to the World Health Organisation.

Bacteria often develop resistance when resistant genes are transported between hosts. One way that this occurs is via plasmids – circular strands of DNA, which can spread easily between bacteria, and swiftly replicate. This can occur in our bodies, and in environmental settings, such as waterways.

The University of Exeter team harnessed the CRISPR-Cas gene editing system, which can target specific sequences of DNA, and cuts through them when they are encountered. The researchers engineered a plasmid that can specifically target the resistance gene for Gentamicin – a commonly used antibiotic.

A promising new gene editing tool that could be key to reducing the spread of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) has been developed by researchers at the University of Exeter University, UK. Credit: Microbiology Society

In laboratory experiments, the new research, published today (May 25) in the journal Microbiology, found that the plasmid protected its host cell from developing resistance. Furthermore, researchers found that the plasmid effectively targeted antimicrobial resistant genes in hosts to which it transferred, reversing their resistance.

Lead author David Walker-Sünderhauf, of the University of Exeter, said: “Antimicrobial resistance threatens to outstrip covid in terms of the number of global deaths. We urgently need new ways to stop resistance spreading between hosts. Our technology is showing early promise to eliminate resistance in a wide range of different bacteria. Our next step is to conduct experiments in more complex microbial communities. We hope one day it could be a way to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance in environments such as sewage treatment plants, which we know are breeding grounds for resistance.”

Reference: “Removal of AMR plasmids using a mobile, broad host-range, CRISPR-Cas9 delivery tool” 25 May 2023, Microbiology.
DOI: 10.1099/mic.0.001334

The research is supported by GW4, the Medical Research Council, the Lister Institute, and JPI-AMR.