Bacterial vaginosis affects between 15 and 20% of women. Researchers think they have found a new remedy for this infection caused by an imbalance in the vaginal flora. They believe that vaginal fluid transplantation could one day help cure women suffering from recurring bacterial vaginosis.
Performing vaginal fluid transplants to treat recurrent bacterial vaginosis is what doctors at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland are hoping to analyze. The first results of this research were published in the journal “Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology”.
Treatment inspired by fecal transplants
Although vaginosis is often a benign infection, it is difficult to treat permanently. Ethel Weld, co-author of the study, explains: “We have very few treatment options for bacterial vaginosis, none of which can be fully curative or restorative.”
This treatment was inspired by the already FDA approved fecal transplants which are used to restore the flora of the colon in people suffering from chronic diarrhea. Furthermore there is already important epidemiological evidence that the transmission of vaginal flora is already taking place, for example in women having sex with women.
As part of their research, the doctors tested the vaginal flora of 20 women aged between 23 and 35. These tests enabled them to determine the ideal bacterial profile.
The article states: “Samples of vaginal fluid with more Lactobacillus, L. crispatus, for example, have a higher protective lactic acid content, a lower pH value and better HIV barrier function, in line with previous studies.”
In search of “super-donors” of vaginal microbiota
The science team is now looking for super-donors to test their hypotheses. Before becoming donors participants should refrain from having sex for 30 days before collecting the sample. They will be tested for many sexually transmitted infections including HIV and HPV, to prevent infection.
The donation does not require any medical intervention. Participants can take the sample themselves. They will need to insert a flexible plastic disc into their vagina, such as a menstrual cup or diaphragm.
Soon there will be a clinical study
Trials will be started as soon as donors are found. The experiment will be carried out on 40 women with vaginosis. Some will receive a healthy microbiota donation and others a placebo.
Dr. Laura Ensign, who is also involved in the research, concludes: “We predict that the path of vaginal microbiota transplantation will probably follow that of fecal transplantation, with efforts to cultivate uniform and standardized grafts with therapeutic efficacy similar to that of donor material.
Vaginosis: What is it?
Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance in the vaginal flora. One in five women suffer from it.
The infection is often silent. It is usually accompanied by grayish or white vaginal discharge and a characteristic bad smell, similar to that of rotten fish. Some women may also complain of low level itching. In more advanced cases, pain or redness in the vagina may be observed.
Vaginosis is treated with an antibiotic and generally the infection disappears within a few days, but often reappears again.