Australia: Virginal Women May Pick Up "Bad" Vaginal Bacteria
November 17, 2006
Dr. Sepehr N. Tabrizi and colleagues at the Royal Women's Hospital in Victoria found that women can acquire bacteria linked to a dangerous vaginal infection through oral sex or petting even if they have not had sexual intercourse.
The investigators asked the 44 participants to collect vaginal specimens, then tested those specimens for the bacteria. The women also filled out questionnaires on their sexual practices. Of 44 women who were virgins, the researchers found 20 carried Gardnerella vaginalis in their vaginas, while three tested positive for Atopobium vaginae. Both types of bacteria can cause bacterial vaginosis (BV), in which normal oxygen-requiring healthy bacteria of the vagina are replaced by non-oxygen-requiring (anaerobic) organisms.
Those reporting oral sex were 22 times more likely to carry G. vaginalis, while hand-genital contact also increased the likelihood of testing positive for the bacterium, the study said.
BV has been linked to miscarriage and a greater susceptibility to STDs such as HIV. Fifty percent of the time, women with BV have no symptoms.
The authors noted the findings should be confirmed by other investigations, since the sample was small. Nevertheless, they wrote, "Our results suggest that transmission of these organisms may occur before the onset of penetrative vaginal sex."
The report, "Prevalence of Gardnerella vaginalis and Atopobium vaginae in Virginal Women," was published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases (2006;33(11):663-665).
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.