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Should the Partners of Women With Bacterial Vaginosis Be treated?

Although bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection, there is debate about whether it should be considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD) because it can occur in women who are not sexually active. In addition, it has many of the characteristics of a change in vaginal environment rather than an infection. In part because of this discrepancy, there is disagreement about the possible benefit of treating male sexual partners of infected women. While BV is generally easily treated with prescription metronidazole or clindamycin, recurrences or refractory infections are not uncommon.

While several studies have been done to address this topic, none of them is considered to be conclusive; they have been critiqued as having methodological problems. Nonetheless, four of these clinical trials concluded that there was no advantage to treating the male partner of a woman diagnosed with BV. Another trial suggested that there was benefit in the treatment of male partners, but this study was also flawed in several respects. Finally, one large and well-designed trial of more than 200 monogamous women with BV treated with tinidazole concluded that there was no benefit to routinely treat the male partners of women with bacterial vaginosis.

Most physicians do recommend avoiding sexual intercourse while undergoing treatment for BV. In the case of recurrent infections, it is important to confirm the proper diagnosis and to confirm that the antibiotics were taken properly. While retreating with a different medication is often helpful, some physicians recommend treating the partner in cases of recurrent or refractory cases of BV.

Created: 2/24/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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