Combined oral contraceptive pill-exposure alone does not reduce the risk of bacterial vaginosis recurrence in a pilot randomised controlled trial

Lenka A. Vodstrcil, Ms Erica Plummer, Christopher K. Fairley, Gilda Tachedjian, Matthew G. Law, Jane S. Hocking, Ms Karen Worthington, Ms Mieken Grant, Nita Okoko, Catriona S. Bradshaw

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We conducted a pilot open-label randomised controlled trial of combined (oestrogen-progesterone) oral contraceptive pill (COCP)-exposure aimed to examine its effect on BV-recurrence following first-line antibiotics compared to antibiotics alone. Ninety-five women with symptomatic BV were prescribed antibiotic therapy, randomised to COCP-exposure (intervention) or current non-hormonal contraceptive practices (control) and followed monthly for six-months or until BV-recurrence. Modified intention-to-treat methods requiring either ≥1 clinical (primary/Amsel-outcome) or ≥1 microbiological (secondary/Nugent-outcome) BV-recurrence assessment were applied to determine cumulative recurrence rates. Secondary Cox regression analyses assessed factors associated with recurrence in all women. 92/95 women randomised provided baseline requirements. BV-recurrence rates were similar in women randomised to the COCP (primary/Amsel-outcome: 10/100PY, 95%CI: 6,19/100PY) compared to controls (14/100PY, 95%CI: 9, 21/100PY, p = 0.471). In secondary analyses sex with the same pre-treatment regular sexual partner (RSP; Amsel: Adjusted Hazard Ratio [AHR] = 3.13, 95%CI: 1.41, 6.94, p = 0.005; Nugent: AHR = 2.97, 95%CI: 1.49, 5.83, p = 0.002) and BV-history (Amsel: AHR = 3.03, 95%CI: 1.14, 6.28; Nugent: AHR = 2.78, 95%CI: 1.22, 6.33) were associated with increased BV-recurrence. This pilot RCT of COCP-exposure did not improve BV cure but found sex with an RSP and BV-history were associated with recurrence, although impacted by sample size and attrition. These data indicate reinfection from an untreated RSP and persistence of BV-associated bacteria are integral to the pathogenesis of recurrence and may overwhelm potential beneficial effects of hormonal contraception on the vaginal microbiota.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3555
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2019


  • epidemiology
  • randomized controlled trials

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