probiotics for vaginal health

New study investigated the effect of vaginal bacterial strains in probiotics for vaginal health.

Lactobacillus is a species of bacteria that resides in the digestive, urinary, and reproductive tract, making up a significant part of the microbiota. It is among the most commonly found probiotics in yogurt and dietary supplements. Lactobacillus bacteria help decrease vaginal pH and act as protection against sexually transmitted infections in the lower reproductive area of healthy women.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection disrupting the natural balance between friendly bacteria such as Lactobacillus and the harmful bacteria in the vagina, resulting in a more diverse microbiota. This condition leads to increased pH, vaginal inflammation, and discharge. Bacterial vaginosis is linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes and a greater risk of developing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Antibiotics are considered the standard treatment option for bacterial vaginosis, however, for most cases, the infection reoccurs within six months. Several studies looked into the possibility that probiotics, which include the Lactobacillus strains, could improve the treatment of the infection.

A new study, published in PLOS Pathogens, derived about fifty-seven Lactobacillus strains from South African women, aged between 16 and 22 years and compared them to the strains from commercially available probiotics for vaginal health. The researchers analyzed the strains’ growth at various pH levels as well as their ability to decrease the vaginal pH. They also examined the strains’ ability to generate antibacterial products and inhibit pathogens as well as look into their susceptibility to antibiotics.  

The study reported that vaginal Lactobacillus bacterial strains performed more effectively than the commercially available strains used in probiotics for vaginal health. The findings suggest that including these vaginal strains in probiotics can possibly improve treatments for bacterial vaginosis. The results from the whole-genome sequencing of the top five performing strains confirmed the strains were likely to be safe with no risk of antimicrobial resistance.

According to the researchers, having a great variety of well-defined probiotic treatments, using vaginal strains, can potentially lead to better treatment outcomes for bacterial vaginosis as well as reduce the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes and sexually transmitted diseases. Future work will likely involve first testing the novel vaginal strains, identified during this study, in clinical trials in Africa.

Written by Ranjani Sabarinathan, MSc                                                                                      


Happel A-U, Kullin B, Gamieldien H, Wentzel N, Zauchenberger CZ, Jaspan HB, et al. (2020) Exploring potential of vaginal Lactobacillus isolates from South African women for enhancing treatment for bacterial vaginosis. PLoS Pathog 16(6): e1008559.

Probiotics with top-performing Lactobacillus strains may improve vaginal health. (2020, June 4). Retrieved from

Bacterial Vaginosis – CDC Fact Sheet –

Image by Antonio Jose Cespedes from Pixabay 

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