And here’s another less shocking but equally upsetting fact: Due to a general lack of interest and innovation in women’s health (read: sexism), the mainstay treatment for BV — antibiotics — isn’t has not changed for 40 years and is often ineffective. long-term.
In other words, millions and millions of women suffer from chronic cases of BV, but the medical world hasn’t done much about it.
Enter Dr. Caroline Mitchell, MD, director of the Vulvovaginal Disorders Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Mitchell is tackling BV in ingenious and exciting ways and is launching an innovative new study this month that will transplant vaginal fluid from healthy participants into the vaginas of women with BV.
“The fact that there hasn’t been a new treatment is infuriating as a health care provider — and as a woman,” Mitchell told WBUR in an interview.
Mitchell explained how BV harms women’s health and relationships — and disproportionately affects marginalized women and women of color.
“It really hits at the heart of their relationship. This makes them uncomfortable with intimacy with a partner. It puts them to shame,” Mitchell said.
And while antibiotics help clear up some infections, BV returns within weeks or months in 40-60% of cases. These are millions of women who suffer from a problem that is not talked about much because of the stigma.
What Mitchell discovered is that women who have healthy vaginal secretions have a high amount of Lactobacillus curatus, a “superhero” bacterium that keeps health, happiness and the absence of imbalances “out there”. Having plenty of this bacteria helps prevent infections, STDs, and inflammation — but it’s not found anywhere in nature except in the vaginal secretions of humans.
Enter vaginal fluid grafts.
Dr. Mitchell hopes her new study – which collects vaginal fluid from carefully tested women with healthy vaginal flora and transplants it into women with chronic BV – will pave the way for new treatments for the disease. And that millions of women will have more healing options in the future.
Success has been found in similar procedures in which fecal transplants help establish healthier bacteria in patients’ intestines, curing chronic stomach problems.
The next step is waiting – for Mitchell to conclude his study and for two similar studies in Denmark and Israel to report their findings. Here’s to hoping.