Monash University is conducting a trial that wants to prove that bacterial vaginosis is, in fact, a sexually transmitted disease that both men and women can carry. A 2006 study from Monash University showed that 50 percent of women that use oral or topical antibiotics were re-treated again in six months for the condition.
Dr. Catriona Bradshaw has been researching bacterial vaginosis for 15 years, and she said, some of the factors that tie into a woman’s recurrence is constant sexual relations with a partner.
Her team carried out more studies that show a high rate of recurrence is possible because the infection is transmitted through sex. The studies show the most prevalent factor for bacterial vaginosis is having sex with a new partner. In 2008 study looking at university students revealed the infection was not present in women who abstained from having sex.
About one in 10 Australian women have bacterial vaginosis, which is when the healthy bacteria in the vagina are replaced by an array of bacteria, causing a fishy-like smell and white, watery discharge.
The infection brings with it a moderate risk for sexual and reproductive health problems such as pregnancy complications and miscarriage. It could also double a person’s chance for getting an STD like chlamydia or gonorrhea.
Bradshaw said the traditional look is that something was disrupting vaginal bacteria, throwing it out of whack. Was it bad luck or the fact women douche? Until now, she said, nobody considered bacterial vaginosis as being a sexually transmitted disease.
According to Bradshaw, many of the bacteria associated with the infection has been seen on the penis and urethra but does not cause men issues. She said it supports the idea that men could be carries of the disease and not even know it, but spread it to women where they become afflicted with it.
A trial known as Step Up is looking for women with bacterial vaginosis and have sex with men. The idea is to treat both partners like doctors would with other STDs like gonorrhea or chlamydia. The trial is being done in Victoria for now but will start in NSW next year.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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