"We found that women with BV were nearly twice as likely to get herpes as women who did not have BV," said Thomas L. Cherpes, M.D., a University of Pittsburgh infectious disease fellow and the study's first author. "The presence of BV seems to increase susceptibility to herpes infection in women."
Worldwide, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases. At least 45 million people are estimated to have genital herpes in the United States alone, according to Sharon Hillier, Ph.D., professor in the departments of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and senior author of the study. BV also is a frequently diagnosed condition.
"Symptoms of discharge are one of the most common reasons women visit a gynecologist," said Dr. Hillier, adding that BV rates in some populations are estimated as high as 50 percent. "Other studies, too, have shown that women who have BV are more likely to get other sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and HIV." The Pittsburgh study also noted that risk appeared to be higher among African-American women.
BV is characterized by an increase in vaginal alkalinity and substitution of certain beneficial bacteria, particularly those that produce hydrogen peroxide, with more toxic bacteria. This depletion of hydrogen peroxide-producing bacteria is believed to result in diminished defense against sexually transmitted diseases.
Contact: Michele Baum
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center