A new, small study has found more evidence that circumcision may affect the microbiome of the penis, but what exactly does this mean?

We're all about microbiomes. We know our gut is like our second brain. Our skin's microbiome is way more important than just for looks and appearance, as skin is our largest organ.

And a new but very small study has found that the microbiome of the penis can be effected when someone is circumcised.

Circumcision itself is often debated--whether for religious or cultural acts, or health decisions, there's much conflict over whether to circumcise or not. This is true even within the clinical community as not everyone believes foreskin removal offers positive clinical benefits.

The most recent study involved 11 U.S. children and found that removing the foreskin can change the composition of and abundance of bacterial and fungal communities that organically live there.

While that doesn't sound great at first, it was noted that some of the bacteria that shrank in quantity after circumcision have been linked to sexually transmitted infections and inflammation in other research. The general implication would be that circumcision may reduce risk of STIs and other infections. The penile microbiome is not well-studied, and certainly not as much as the gut or even vaginal microbiomes, both of which still have lots of research to be done with regard to overall health.

There is limited data, and it's conflicting anyway when it comes to circumcision, though it's a hot topic as opponents find it to be unnecessary genital mutilation.

Since the 1800s at least, it has been theorized that circumcision protected against STIs, based on a limited study that suggested Jewish people in London were more protected against rampant syphillis than those who were part of generally uncircumcised communities.

That was thought to be a possible jump to conclusion, however, and to this day, the debate rages on as correlation doesn't equal causation, and there is still room to argue on both sides of the issue.

Several observational studies and even a few randomized clinical trials have concluded that there's no evidence that circumcision can protect people from some STIs, and certainly not enough to consider 'genital mutilation', often done on newborns without consent.

Global data meta-analyses have found that circumcision may reduce bacterial infections such as syphilis or viral infections like herpes simplex type 2 or genital herpes. Studies have even suggested that circumcised adults may protect partners from bacterial vaginosis or even contracting human immunodeficiency virus.

In fact, some observational data from South Africa has suggested that circumcision may have the same efficacy against spreading circumcision that a vaccine of high efficacy would.

Still, many find those conclusions scare tactics and not enough evidence for genital mutilation. Particularly as other studies challenge that evidence and don't often reproduce similar results. And many are concerned about predatory science on marginal populations as it seems pushing circumcision to prevent HIV has become a widespread effort in Africa, where circumcision for both men and women is common.

This recent study on 11 children is a first of its kind and looked specifically at microbiome changes that occurred after circumcision. Its obviously small sample size doesn't give enough room for any steadfast guidance or protocol to come about as a result, particularly as a thirty-plus year study in Denmark found that there was no evidence of childhood or infant circumcision protecting against STIs or HIV. Interestingly, the opposite was found with circumcision being linked to higher STI rates overall.

And yet, in 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) analyzed the literature on circumcision and promoted that the current evidence indicated health benefits for a newborn male to be circumcised outweighed risks. In 2021, they still held that guidance, however not enough to recommend universal circumcision on newborns anymore and to leave it up to guardians to decide.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hold similar guidance, acknowledging that circumcision may prevent the contraction of HIV, but not enough evidence exists fro them to suggest circumcision reducing HIV transmission among the gay and queer community.

We moms know it's a hot topic. As natural-minded mothers, we tend to prefer less medical intervention, and certainly unnecessary intervention. Some see the decision to not circumcise as trying to be 'trendy' or 'hip,' and purposely ignoring science, while others see it as simply wrong and nonconsensual mutilation.

Still, the research on microbiomes continues to grow, thankfully, and perhaps as it does, more information about true necessity and health benefits will come about and bring more information to the debate table.

Or maybe it'll just add fuel to the fire in the debate about mandated safety and human rights? We're guessing it may do both.