According to a US study, between a quarter and a third of vaginal infections are caused directly by men, depending on whether they are circumcised or not.
All too often the role of men in women’s reproductive health is overlooked. To remedy this, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have shown that men are responsible for between a third and a quarter of vaginal infections. They published their findings in the journal Frontiers of Cellular Microbiology and Infection on August 4.
Circumcision a real influence
The researchers examined 168 heterosexual couples who had regular sex for one year. They investigated the presence of bacterial vaginosis – an imbalance in the vaginal or vulvar flora that causes the growth of harmful bacteria – in the women at the beginning of the study, six months and a year later. They also took samples from men in the urethral duct, glans and urethral meatus to test for the bacteria.
The influence of the men on the development of vaginal infections became clear. The results showed “a clear temporal relationship between the microbial composition of the penis and subsequent disease development,” observed Supriya Mehta, the lead author of the study. About one in four women (26.3%) developed an infection during the study when their partner was circumcised. Among those whose partner is not circumcised, this figure rises to more than every third woman (37.3%). According to the researchers, this difference is explained by the lower number of anaerobic bacteria in circumcised penises.
Men must be included
The role of men in the development of female reproductive diseases is obvious: “The correspondence between the penis microbiome and the vaginal microbiome of the sexual partners does not simply reflect the vaginal microbiome, but can contribute to it,” the researchers argue. It has been shown that the observation of penile microbes is a strong predictor of bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial types were predicted in 74.6% of cases.
The authors believe that these results should help to further investigate the influence of men on reproductive diseases developed by women. “A possible treatment should effectively reduce or modify the presence of bacteria in men” and thus reduce bacterial vaginosis. “I want doctors, researchers, and the general public to involve male partners in their efforts to improve women’s reproductive health,” Supriya Mehta told AFP. It’s not about blaming one of them, but about expanding the possibilities and opportunities for improvement.