Is it possible to say the word bacterial vaginosis without lowering your voice? Maybe, but it’s definitely rare. Most times the topic is brought up in conversation at dinner with friends, voices will hush, no matter how loud the restaurant. It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s not the most pleasant topic — despite the fact it’s the most common vaginal infection among women 15 to 44, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. If you’ve had it, you know that it’s sometimes itchy, unpleasant, and it can be hard to get rid of. It happens when there’s an imbalance of bacteria in your vagina, and can also increase your risk for catching sexually transmitted infections and other diseases. But luckily, doctors are working on a fancy new fix.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are hoping to make a vaginal fluid transplant available for women who need a restorative, curative treatment. The team of researchers developed a universal donor screening which they tested on 20 women. They published their findings it in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. Inspired by the fecal (read: poo) transplant, researchers wrote that they hope this new vagina juice transplant will be their “next frontier.”
"Vaginal microbiota transplant (VMT) has the potential to revolutionize the way we view and treat conditions affecting the female reproductive tract," study authors wrote. The microbiota part of VMT specifically refers to the microorganisms in our bodies, such as bacteria. If this all sounds a little out there to you, it shouldn’t. “There is significant epidemiological evidence that vaginal microbiota transfer already occurs, for example, between women who have sex with women,” one of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Ethel Weld, M.D., Ph.D., explains. “But before clinical trials of VMT are conducted, we must first determine how to screen donors.” Specifically those whose vaginal fluid would be able to be transferred with the least risk involved.
For the screening, potential donors must fill out a medical questionnaire that covers things like sexual history and vaginal products used. They’ll also need to have their blood and urine examined, along with their vaginal fluid. About 35% of participants in the screening will be eligible to be donors, co-author Dr. Laura Ensign, Ph.D., explained.
Before you jump in line to do all this invasive testing, consider this: “Out of an abundance of caution, we propose that donors abstain from vaginal intercourse for the duration of longitudinal sample collection,” suggests Ensign. She explains this could mean 30 days or more without sex.
That might not sound worth it to you, but researchers say finding and screening safe donors could change the future of bacterial vaginosis for many women.
Weld said in a statement: “We have very few treatment options available for BV, none of them fully curative or restorative.” But with this news comes the hope of more options for women with BV.