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No evidence that probiotics treats bacterial vaginosis: Study

By Mike Stones , 20-Oct-2009

There is not enough evidence to support the claim that probiotics can remedy or prevent bacterial vaginosis (BV), according to a new study conducted jointly by scientists in the United Arab Emirates, Belgium and Italy.

The study’s authors concluded that: “The current research does not provide conclusive evidence that probiotics are superior to or enhance the effectiveness of antibiotics in the treatment of BV. In addition, there is insufficient evidence to recommend the use of probiotics either before, during or after antibiotic treatment as a means of ensuring successful treatment or reduce recurrence.”

The effectiveness of probiotics in the treatment of BV should be confirmed by larger, well-designed randomized controlled trials with standardized methodologies, they added.

Supporting the study, a UK Department of Health spokesperson told NutraIngredients.com that: “The NHS Choices website states there is no evidence of any complementary therapies that can cure Bacterial Vaginosis.”

NHS Choices advises antibiotics treatment of BV, which it says is up to 80 per cent effective.

Genital discomfort

One of the most common causes of genital discomfort in women of reproductive age, BV occurs when the population of normal vaginal micro-organisms, dominated by lactobacilli, is overgrown by other types of bacteria.

Since treating this condition with antibiotics can be ineffective and is associated with high rates of recurrence, the depleted lactobacilli population is sometimes augmented by the oral or vaginal introduction of probiotic strains.

To test the effectiveness of the treatment, the scientists investigated the evidence for the use of probiotic preparations either alone or in conjunction with antibiotics for the treatment of BV.

After a detailed database search, which included the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trial and the website of the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics, the scientists contacted authors from relevant publications, nutraceutical companies and probiotic-related scientific associations.

The focus was placed on randomised controlled trials using probiotics for the treatment of women of any age diagnosed with BV, regardless of diagnostic method used. The probiotic preparation could be single or a cocktail of strains and include any preparation type/dosage/route of administration.

Conventional antibiotics

Included in the research were studies that compared probiotics with placebo, probiotics used in conjunction with conventional antibiotics compared with placebo or probiotics alone compared with conventional antibiotics.

The study was conducted by the departments of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium and the department Medical and Morphological Research, University of Udine, Italy.

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