WANTED: 200 vagina’s to write history #LetsSwab

Today, after a year of hard preparational work, we are launching our Isala project!! Yes, in the midst of the corona-storm, because legendary projects require epic times and also because good timing is overrated.  

So let me tell you about Isala and how you can really make a difference for your own health and that of thousands other women and girls of today and the future. Isala is a brand new large-scale citizen science project led by the lab of Prof. Sarah Lebeer at the University of Antwerp. Isala is named after Isala Van Diest (1842-1916), the very first female medical doctor in Belgium. She had to study in Germany because no women were admitted to Belgian universities at the time. But she persisted. And she made history. Because thanks to her, a Royal Decree appeared in 1884 that allowed women in Belgium to become medical doctors. So we named our citizen science project after this strong lady, because we are also looking for women who want to write history. Women like you?!

How can you help us? Well, there are millions of micro-organisms in your vagina that play a crucial role in your health. They are extremely important to protect you against vaginal infections, bladder infections, STIs, etc. and we suspect that they also play a major role in fertility and healthy pregnancies. Only… we are not sure. Until recently, scientific research unfortunately has not had a lot of interest in the vaginal microbiome. Isala wants to change this. With your help, we want to try for the very first time to better understand the female microbiome in Flanders with state of the art DNA technology.

“This groundbreaking research could eventually lead to new, unseen possibilities for both diagnostics and therapies.”

Prof. Sarah Lebeer

Isala is more than just an epic self-sampling citizen science project. With Isala we want to empower women to take their own vaginal samples, make them more aware of their own health and recognize alarm signals. We also want to break taboo and open the floor to facilitate communication about vaginal health.

Women in Flanders who want to participate can easily register via www.isala.be. If you do not live in Flanders or cannot participate but believe everyone should know about Isala, feel free to share our message with the world.

Let’s swab for the future. #LetsSwab