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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Sep 21, 1999

Hi! I'm a college student sharing a bathroom with eight other girls in our dorm suite. It has just came to my attention that our suitemate's sister has BV. Is it possible to contract this disease through anything besides sexual contact? She is constantly using the toilet and showering at our place...just curious, and a little worried!

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is caused by a change in the bacterial flora of the vagina. In women who have BV, bacteria such as G. vaginalis, Mycoplasma hominis, and certain anaerobic bacteria, are found at abnormally high concentrations in the vagina. The cause of BV is not fully understood. There is a suspicion that BV may be linked to a sexually transmitted infection. This is because women who have BV are more likely to have multiple sexual partners, and BV occurs only rarely in women who have never had sex. However, the underlying cause of BV has not yet been determined, and there is no definitive proof thus far that the cause of BV is sexually transmitted. There is nothing to suggest that BV is "transmitted" through any form of household contact or casual contact. Therefore you and your roommates are not considered at any risk of getting BV from her. Symptoms of BV are most often a vaginal discharge, and/or a fishy vaginal odor. However some women with BV will have no symptoms at all.

Bacteria associated with BV have sometimes been linked to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). BV may also be harmful in women who are pregnant. Since we do not know the underlying cause of BV, the goal of treatment is to relieve the symptoms, and to reduce complications in pregnant women. There are various antibiotics that are used to treat women with BV. Even after treatment, recurrences of BV can sometimes occur. The treatment of male sexual partners has not been shown to help prevent recurrences of BV in women. Therefore, at this time, treatment of male sexual partners is not recommended. BV does not occur in men.

Since BV is more common in women with multiple sexual partners (a risk factor for STDs) women with BV should consider getting tested for STDs.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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