Bacterial Vaginosis

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What causes bacterial vaginosis?

Researchers have had difficulty determining exactly what causes bacterial vaginosis. At present, it seems to be that a combination of multiple bacteria must be present together for bacterial vaginosis to develop. Bacterial vaginosis typically features a reduction in the number of the normal hydrogen peroxide-producing lactobacilli in the vagina. Simultaneously, there is an increase in concentration of other types of bacteria, especially anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that grow in the absence of oxygen). As a result, the diagnosis and treatment are not as simple as identifying and eradicating a single type of bacteria. Why the bacteria combine to cause the unbalance is unknown.

Certain risk factors have been identified that increase the chances of developing bacterial vaginosis. These risk factors for BV include:

However, the role of sexual activity in the development of the condition is not fully understood, and although most experts believe that bacterial vaginosis does not occur in women who have not had sexual intercourse, others feel that the condition can still develop in women who have not had sexual intercourse.

Is bacterial vaginosis contagious?

Although bacterial vaginosis is not considered to be a contagious condition, the role of transmissibility of bacteria among individuals is not fully understood. Since having multiple or new sexual partners increases a woman's risk of developing bacterial vaginosis, this suggests that spread of bacteria among individuals may alter the balance of bacteria in the vagina and potentially predispose to development of bacterial vaginosis. However, since bacterial vaginosis also occurs in celibate women, other causative factors must also play a role in its development.

It is not possible to contract bacterial vaginosis from toilet seats, swimming pools, or hot tubs, or from touching contaminated objects.


Reviewed on 10/25/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Bacterial Vaginosis."
<http://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/>

Gired, P. H., MD. "Bacterial Vaginosis." Medscape. Mar 27, 2015.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/254342-overview>

Gor, H. B., MD. "Vaginitis." Medscape. Nov 03, 2015.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/257141-overview>

Gired, P.H., MD. "Bacterial vaginosis." Medscape. Updated Nov 15, 2015
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/254342-overview>

WomensHealth.gov. "Bacterial Vaginosis." Nov 19, 2014.
<http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/bacterial-vaginosis.html>

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