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PLoS One. 2010 Jun 15;5(6):e11139. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011139.

Risks for acquisition of bacterial vaginosis among women who report sex with women: a cohort study.

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  • 1Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States of America.



Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is common in women who have sex with women. While cross-sectional data support a role for sexual transmission, risks for incident BV have not been prospectively studied in this group.


We studied risks for BV acquisition in a prospective cohort study of women (age 16-35 years) who reported sex with other women (>or=1 partner, prior year). Women were followed for one year with examinations at quarterly visits and for genital symptoms at any time. Species-specific 16S rRNA gene PCRs for BV-associated bacteria (BVAB) were applied to vaginal fluid obtained at enrollment. Sexual behaviors were ascertained by computer-assisted interview. Of 335 participants, 239 had no BV at baseline; 199 were seen in follow-up (median follow-up 355 days, 4.0 visits/subject). Forty women experienced >or=1 BV episode. Risks for incident BV were presentation <or=14 days since onset of menses (hazard ratio (HR) 2.3 (95% CI, 1.2-4.7), report of new sex partner with BV history (HR 3.63 (1.1-11.9)), change in vaginal discharge (HR 2.6 (1.3-5.2)) and detection of any of several BVAB in vaginal fluid at enrollment, including BVAB1 (HR 6.3 (1.4-28.1)), BVAB2 (HR 18.2 (6.4-51.8)), BVAB3 (HR 12.6 (2.7-58.4)), G. vaginalis (HR 3.9 (1.5-10.4)), Atopobium vaginae (HR 4.2 (1.9-9.3)), Leptotrichia spp (9.3 (3.0-24.4)), and Megasphaera-1 (HR 11.5 (5.0-26.6)). Detection of Lactobacillus crispatus at enrollment conferred reduced risk for subsequent BV (HR 0.18 (0.08-0.4)). Detailed analysis of behavioral data suggested a direct dose-response relationship with increasing number of episodes of receptive oral-vulvovaginal sex (HR 1.02 (95% CI, 1.00-1.04).


Vaginal detection of several BVAB in BV-negative women predicted subsequent BV, suggesting that changes in vaginal microbiota precede BV by weeks or months. BV acquisition was associated with report of new partner with BV; associations with sexual practices - specifically, receptive oral sex - require further investigation.

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