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Possible Cause Of Endometriosis Found, Offering Potential Treatment Ideas

A common band of bacteria called Fusobacterium has a clear link to endometriosis.


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

Woman sits on a bed and holds a hot water bottle against her belly. Female wakes up suffering from menstrual pain

Chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis, as well as very painful menstrual cramps, are among the most common symptoms of endometriosis.

Image credit: Aleksey Boyko/

Scientists believe they may have found a possible risk factor for endometriosis: a type of bacteria commonly found in the guts and mouths of people. If further research confirms these findings, then eliminating the bacteria in question could be a possible way to treat this painful chronic illness. 

Endometriosis affects roughly 10 percent of women and girls of reproductive age – that’s 190 million people globally. It's a disease in which tissue similar to the lining of the womb (uterus) grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, resulting in pelvic pain, fertility problems, abdominal bloating, nausea, fatigue, and a host of other unpleasant symptoms.


It can be a frustrating condition to deal with, not least because there is no known cure and very little idea of what causes it. In this new study, scientists managed to shine some much-needed light on this pressing problem. 

Scientists at Nagoya University and Toyota Kosei Hospital in Japan found that 64 percent of patients with endometriosis had Fusobacterium in their uterine lining, versus fewer than 10 percent of participants in the control group

Fusobacterium is part of the normal microbiome of the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and female genital tract. However, this study found that women with endometriosis tend to have a much stronger presence of the bacterium in their genitals than those without the disease. 

The work was particularly concerned with the species F. nucleatum. While often harmless, overgrowth of this bacteria has been linked to a number of diseases, most notably gum disease and gingivitis.


To dig deeper into this link, the researchers carried out some experiments on lab mice. They discovered that the uteruses of mice infected with Fusobacterium had more and heavier lesions, which is a common sign of endometriosis. 

They also gathered some insight into why Fusobacterium is linked to endometriosis on a molecular level. By tracking specific proteins, the researchers found evidence that the presence of the bacterium was triggering an innate immune response around endometriosis lesions. 

Importantly, the lesions shrunk when the mice were given an antibiotic that combats Fusobacterium. It’s still early days for this research, but the findings indicate that this could be a possible avenue for future treatments. 

“Eradication of this bacterium by antibiotic treatment could be an approach to treat endometriosis for women who are positive for Fusobacteria infection, and such women could be easily identified by vaginal swab or uterus swab,"  Professor Yutaka Kondo from the Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine said in a statement.


Widely available treatment is still far down the pipeline, but Nagoya University Hospital was keen to announce they are currently in the middle of clinical trials involving antibiotic treatment for human patients with endometriosis. 

The new study was published in Science Translational Medicine.


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  • Fusobacterium