Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a disease of the vagina caused by excessive growth of bacteria. Common symptoms include increased vaginal discharge that often smells like fish. The discharge is usually white or gray in color. Burning with urination may occur. Itching is uncommon. Occasionally there may be no symptoms. Having BV approximately doubles the risk of infection by a number of other sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS. It also increases the risk of early delivery among pregnant women.

BV is caused by an imbalance of the naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina. There is a change in the most common type of bacteria and a hundred to thousandfold increase in total numbers of bacteria present. Typically bacteria other than Lactobacilli become more common. Risk factors include douching, new or multiple sex partners, antibiotics, and using an intrauterine device among others.

Bacterial vaginosis itself  is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, but as stated above it can increase susceptibility to other sexually transmitted diseases.

Diagnosis is suspected based on the symptoms and may be verified by testing the vaginal discharge and finding a higher than normal vaginal pH and large numbers of bacteria. BV is often confused with a vaginal yeast infection or infection with Trichomonas.

Usually treatment is with an antibiotic, such as clindamycin or metronidazole. These medications may also be used in the second or third trimesters of pregnancy. However, the condition often recurs following treatment. Probiotics may help prevent re-occurrence. It is unclear if the use of probiotics or antibiotics affects pregnancy outcomes.

BV is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age. The percentage of women affected at any given time varies between 5% and 70%. BV is most common in parts of Africa and least common in Asia and Europe. In the United States about 30% of women between the ages of 14 and 49 are affected. Rates vary considerably between ethnic groups within a country. While BV like symptoms have been described for much of recorded history, the first clearly documented case occurred in 1894.

Bacterial vaginosis. (2016, September 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:27, September 21, 2016, from


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