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New research shows vaginal bacteria vary among healthy women, need customized treatment

to disease and individual health care needs, and assist doctors and women to make more informed decisions about health issues and treatment plans.

Its important for us to understand that the bacterial landscape in vaginas is different in different women and thats normal, Forney said. Every speck of the human body has bacteria and those bacteria, including bacteria in the vagina, play a role in maintaining the bodys health.

A healthy vagina is populated with lactic acid-producing bacteria, explained Forney. The environment maintains a low pH balance that inhibits the growth of pathogens. The vagina is elegant in its simplicity, he said. A healthy vagina maintains itself and is able to self-correct when minor imbalances occur.

When conditions in the vagina change the pH balance dramatically, harmful bacteria can invade and cause infections. When the pH is imbalanced, a condition known as bacterial vaginosis can develop; the condition is not well understood and is marked by several indicators including elevated pH levels and vaginal discharge. If left untreated or if treatment fails, the condition can predispose a woman to harm from sexually transmitted disease, including HIV.

Forney stressed the importance of the research teams findings because they may:

  • shed light on why some women have recurrent vaginal yeast infections, while others have never had one
  • partly explain differences in susceptibility to infection in the two racial groups, based upon the relative frequency of different kinds of bacterial communities in women.

Forney also said differences in the kinds of bacteria normally present in the vagina might mean that vaginal odor is normal for some women and not an indication of an underlying health problem.

The research has personal meaning for Forney as well. I am vitally concerned about womens health issues because Ive got two daughters and I know that these issue
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Contact: Tania Thompson
taniat@uidaho.edu
208-885-6567
University of Idaho
10-Jul-2007


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