MOSCOW, Idaho Silence may impact womens health since few women or their doctors are comfortable talking about vaginal health openly. This hesitation, combined with a limited understanding of the differences between women, can lead to misinformation, misdiagnosis and potentially ineffective treatments. Research at the University of Idaho is helping to increase understanding about normal vaginal biology so that physicians can better identify conditions that make women prone to infections and other diseases, and avoid the development of health problems.
Women suffer from insidious health problems, including bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections, and those problems send them in droves to seek medical treatment, said Larry Forney, a professor of biology at the University of Idaho. Unfortunately, prescribed treatments arent necessarily effective because doctors dont understand distinctive differences in the microbial composition of the vagina among women.
Forneys interdisciplinary team of researchers found that the microbial ecosystem of the human vagina varies greatly among women. Those differences can lead to conditions that, if not diagnosed and treated correctly, may leave some women susceptible to a range of infections, including sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.
His research team compared the type of vaginal bacteria in a representative group of Caucasian and black women in North America. Three major findings emerged from the study: there are at least eight kinds of normal vaginal bacterial communities, each community is different, and, among the eight kinds of communities, some bacterial communities are unique to one or the other racial group.
Understanding the differences between these normal vaginal communities is the key to developing effective treatment and keeping women healthy, Forney said. For example, with this new insight into the vaginal ecosystem, we will be able to better understand a womans risk
Contact: Tania Thompson
University of Idaho