Health Questions and Answers

Question: What are the characteristics of bacterial vaginosis (BV)?

Answer:

Bacterial vaginosis, also sometimes called vaginal bacteriosis or nonspecific vaginitis, is thought to be due to a pathologic alteration in the normal vaginal flora. That is, the causative organisms are normally present in the vagina, but in BV there is overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria. Symptoms include pruritus and odor. Many women report increased odor after intercourse. On exam there is a thin, white-grey discharge. The vaginal pH is elevated; addition of KOH solution to the vaginal fluid leads to a characteristic amide odor (the “whiff test”); and the increased bacteria can be seen in a saline preparation of the vaginal fluid under high power (400×). Clue cells are epithelial cells with spherical bacteria clinging to their edges, obscuring the usually sharp border of the epithelial cells.

Reference: Sobel JD. Bacterial vaginosis. Ann Rev Med 51:349-356, 2000. Medline Similar articles Full article

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