Gardnerella vaginalis is the name of a bacterium commonly found in the bacterial flora of the vagina.
The vagina is a musculomembranous canal populated by lactobacilli , which acidify its pH to keep away – or in any case under control – potential pathogens, including Gardnerella vaginalis .
Known more simply as Gardnerella , Gardenerella vaginalis is a Gram-variable bacterium, belonging to the coccobacilli category , non-sporing, devoid of motility and with a diameter between 1 and 1.5 microns.
Gardnerella vaginalis infection gets its name from the bacterium that causes it, hence gardenerella .
Gardnerella In Childhood
In the prepubertal age, the detection of Gardenerella in the vaginal environment of asymptomatic girls is rather rare. For this reason, some authors argue that the presence of Gardnerella in childhood should be considered a probable – although not certain – sexual abuse .
The situation in adulthood is different , since about 30% of the healthy female population hosts this bacterium in their vagina.
Gardnerella In Sexually Active Women
The overgrowth of the bacilli of Gardnerella is implicated in the appearance of one of the most common vaginal diseases in childbearing age, bacterial vaginosis . This pathology is characterized by a clear reduction in the population of lactobacilli in favor of facultative anaerobic microorganisms , including Gardnerella.
The risk of developing bacterial vaginosis increases with sexual frequency and promiscuity ; in fact, the main route of contagion seems to be the latter, without forgetting that the slightly alkaline pH (7.4-7.6) of the sperm decreases vaginal acidity, favoring the engraftment and proliferation of pathogens.
Among the most significant risk factors we should also mention incorrect intimate hygiene (for example excessive use of douches), the use of antibiotics or intrauterine mechanical contraceptives such as the spiral , previous pregnancies and a certain genetic predisposition (apparently, for example that the black population is statistically more affected).
Symptoms And Diagnosis
Gardnerella: The Symptoms
In most of the patients (over 50%), the presence of Gardnerella in the vagina is absolutely asymptomatic . In other cases, the abnormal growth of the pathogen is associated with the appearance of abundant greyish-white and distinctly malodorous secretions , especially if placed in contact with alkaline solutions (such as normal soap ).
This characteristic is exploited by a simple diagnostic test whose name – fishy odor test – is explanatory of what it investigates.
In practice, this test provides that a drop of 10% potassium hydroxide is placed in contact with the vaginal secretion, with the aim of releasing the pungent odor typical of an important Gardnerella infection. The vaginal pH also changes from the normal 4 – 4.5 to neutral or mild basicity.
To obtain further diagnostic confirmation, the gynecologist can take some desquamated cells with a swab and look under the microscope for the presence of the bacterium, usually abundant.
Gardnerella infection also manifests itself with a modest burning sensation and a sense of irritation , common elements – albeit with varying degrees of intensity – to almost all sexually transmitted genital infections .
Gardnerella In Man
Humans can also contract gardnerella.
Usually, the source of the infection is the infected sexual partner.
Gardnerella infection in humans tends to be asymptomatic, so much so that the patient very often does not realize he is affected.
Gardnerella: The Cure
In the article dedicated to bacterial vaginosis, the female population was warned of the fact that Gardnerella – if neglected – can cause subsequent alterations in the neck of the uterus or a real pelvic inflammatory disease , up to seriously compromising fertility feminine .
The therapy must therefore always be prescribed by the doctor. You cannot and should not cure bacterial vaginosis by doing your own thing and relying on simple over-the-counter remedies or on the advice of a friend.
One of the drugs of first choice, because it is directly active against Gardnerella , is the antibiotic metronidazole , which can be taken both orally and topically (cream to be applied vaginally); another frequently used drug is the antibiotic clindamycin , which is usually taken topically.
Alongside the use of antibiotics, the use of vaginal douches with an acidic content is common, with the indication to carry out it at the end of sexual intercourse and after the end of the menstrual flow .
The main purpose of these treatments is to help restore the normal vaginal flora , with consequent acidification of the microenvironment and removal of pathogens that survive with difficulty, including Gardnerella .
Gardnerella In Man: The Cure
The treatment of Gardnerella in men involves the use of the antibiotics metronidazole and/or clindamycin, exactly as occurs when the infection affects women.
To keep the vaginal flora in balance and avoid the risk of an overgrowth of Gardnerella it is important to:
- Cleanse intimate areas properly. Both poor personal hygiene and obsessive cleansing contribute to altering the local microflora . The use of a soap with a physiological pH (4 or 5) is recommended, while intimate deodorants and internal douches should be limited .
- Avoid wearing synthetic underwear, such as jeans and pants that are too tight, as they retain moisture and heat, creating favorable conditions for the development of Gardnerella. The same applies to panty liners, which should be changed frequently on busy days.
- The continuous rubbing of the garment against the genitals can also cause local irritation. Better, therefore, to choose cotton, which compared to synthetic fibers guarantees greater breathability.
- Always use a condom for casual sex; if an infection is suspected (indicated by symptoms such as itching and foul-smelling discharge) sexual rest is important until medical diagnosis is made and, if this is positive, until the end of any antibiotic therapy . Always extend treatment to your partner, even if they are asymptomatic .
- Avoid using towels and underwear together, at home, in a hotel, or in any other condition.
- Avoid staying in a wet bathing suit for a long time.
- Follow a healthy and balanced diet (reduce, in particular, the consumption of sweets and simple sugars ); occasionally take regenerating breaks and practice regular physical exercise ; these little attentions to one’s body will be repaid with better immune efficacy and, consequently, with a better balance of the vaginal flora and greater protection from Gardnerella.