The influence of behaviors and relationships on the vaginal microbiota of women and their female partners: the WOW Health Study

Catriona Bradshaw, Sandra Walker, Lenka A Vodstrcil, Jade Elissa Bilardi, Matthew G Law, Jane Hocking, Katherine A Fethers, Glenda Fehler, Susan Petersen, Sepehr Tabrizi, Marcus Y Chen, Suzanne Garland, Christopher Kit Fairley

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40 Citations (Scopus)


A community-based study of women who have sex with women (WSW) was performed to determine the burden of bacterial vaginosis (BV), and behavioral factors influencing the vaginal microbiota of women and their female sexual partners (FSPs), as measured by Nugent score (NS). Methods. In a cross-sectional study of 18-55-year-old WSWrecruited nationally, participants completed questionnaires and self-collected vaginal swab samples weekly on 3 occasions. BV was defined as an NS of 7-10. Factors associated with BV, stability of NS category, and concordance of these categories in coenrolled couples were examined with multivariable logistic regression analysis. Results. A total of 458 participants were recruited; 192 were coenrolled with their FSP (96 couples). BV was detected in 125 women (27 ; 95 confidence interval [CI], 23 -32 ). BV was associated with =4 lifetime FSPs (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.9; 95 CI, 1.2-3.1), an FSP with BV symptoms (AOR, 2.9; 1.0-8.2) and smoking, with =30 cigarettes per week showing greatest odds (AOR, 2.7; 1.5-5.0). Of 428 women returning =2 swab samples, 375 (88 ) had a stable NS category across all samples, predominantly reflecting normal flora. Coenrolled WSW were less likely to have BV (31 vs 23 ; P = .07), and the majority (70 ) were concordant for NS category (. = 0.47; P = .01), with most concordant for normal flora. Concordant NS category was associated with a relationship of 6 months (AOR, 4.7; 95 CI, 1.4-16.4) and frequent sexual contact (more than once per month; AOR, 2.7; 1.0-7.1). Conclusions. BV is associated with key behaviors and smoking practices in WSW, but longer-duration, sexually activeWSW partnerships support a stable favorable vaginal microbiota.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1562 - 1572
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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