Penile Microbiota in a Male can Predict Bacterial Vaginosis in their Female Sexual Partner

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penile microbiota
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Bacterial Vaginosis commonly called BV is a common infection that affects nearly 20% of women across the globe. It is typically caused by a certain change in the natural bacterial count inside vaginal and an ignored BV can lead to pregnancy-related complications and increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections i.e. HIV, herpes, gonorrhea, etc. Considering that sexual intercourse changes the natural microbiota of both sexual partners, the new study highlights strong evidence on penile microbiota to predict bacterial vaginosis in their partners.

The research team from the University of Illinois, Chicago investigated this relationship in detail and the complete study findings are published in the journal “Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.

This new study shows that penile microbiota is directly involved in bacterial vaginosis in women and an early analysis can predict the risk beforehand.

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The benefits of this new link explained are higher for women because it is hard to identify and treat bacteria vaginosis in later stages. The late treatment could be only 50% efficient and typically takes much longer time to completely heal the patient. On the other side, if predicted and diagnosed on time, it could result in better treatment facilities with no recurring infection in later months.

The conventional treatment for bacteria vaginosis is not much effective so the need for better treatment remains necessary.

Dr. Supriya D. Mehta a consultant epidemiologist from the University of Illinois is the first author of this study. She emphasizes on the sexual partner linked treatment facility to be a better and effective strategy than the conventional treatment approach.

This new study highlights the connection between penile microbiota and the onset of bacterial vaginosis. The study group investigated 168 couples (heterosexual not homosexual) from Kenya where the female partners didn’t have bacterial vaginosis when this study started. However, within one year, 31% of women from these couples were diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis.

The penile microbiota was different in every male partner but the cross-check showed that microbiota in men and their sexual partners impact each other.

This typical association suggests that the microbiome of the penis can determine bacterial vaginosis in their partners. Based on the results taken from machine-learning algorithms, the study identifies 10 bacteria that are directly involved in the onset of bacterial vaginosis. These 10 bacterial strains were present in men and women both which is why they are thought to be associated with BV.

But it would be unreasonable to say that only penile microbiota is behind developing bacterial vaginosis. The researchers talk about two possibilities here.

First, it is possible for these BV related bacteria to be present at the penis which are transmitted during sex to their female partners. Later on, these bacteria cause bacterial vaginosis. In this case, the link is clear and obvious because the penetrative sex transfers bacteria to the vagina.

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The second case is that the penile bacteria only change the vaginal microbiome without actually transferring these bacteria that are thought to cause bacterial vaginosis. The repetitive exposure or long term sexual relation changes the vaginal microbiome and thus the women develop bacterial vaginosis. This mechanism is only based on assumption and there is no clear understanding of which mechanism triggers BV in female sexual partners.

This study highlights one aspect of developing bacterial vaginosis but for a complete understanding of the underlying factors, in-depth studies are needed. In a way, this new study adds responsibility to the male partners in a heterosexual relationship for the reproductive and sexual health of their female partners.  It is not to blame one partner for the other but to show some responsibility and adopt a caring attitude for living a healthy, disease-free life.

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