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Bacterial vaginosis – invitation for couples to take part in a search for BV cure

Research 16 Jul 2019
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Did you know that one in two women with bacterial vaginosis (BV) can get it again?

So, if you have BV and have a regular male sexual partner, the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre is inviting you both to take part in a research study.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal condition among women, which often comes back even after antibiotic treatment. Some of the bacteria associated with BV are present on the genitals of partners of women with BV.

Currently, antibiotics to treat BV are given only to women. However, studies show BV comes back or recurs in more than 50% of women who have been treated.

It is believed that reinfection from sexual partners may be contributing to the high rates of women getting BV again.

So, the research study 'Step Up RCT' aims to determine the effectiveness of treating the male partners of women with BV to prevent women getting their BV back again.

The study is being conducted by researchers from Monash University and the Alfred Hospital and has study sites throughout Melbourne and Sydney.

One of the study's main investigators, Associate Professor Catriona Bradshaw, says the trial aims to determine if treating male partners with oral and topical antibiotics at the same time women are being treated will improve BV cure.

"BV affects up to one million Australian women and, if untreated, can lead to pelvic infection, and increased risk of sexually transmitted infections, and reproductive issues," says Prof Bradshaw.

"If partner treatment improves BV cure rates, it will represent a major paradigm shift in the clinical management of BV – and provide real opportunities for the long-term control of BV."

Step Up RCT is being conducted by researchers from Victoria and New South Wales and has been approved by the Alfred Hospital Ethics Committee.

What is involved?

Women receive standard recommended antibiotics for BV and their male partner is allocated to either treatment (antibiotics to take at the same time as the female) or no treatment. The study must be designed this way to see if the addition of male partner treatment is better than the current practice of only treating women.

The allocation of males to treatment or no treatment is done by a computer program, so the selection is random, which is a requirement of clinical trials. If BV returns in a woman whose partner was not given treatment, couples are then both offered treatment if they would like to take it.

Get in touch

If you are interested and eligible, you will be invited to attend a free appointment at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre in Carlton to confirm your BV diagnosis on the spot.

Free antibiotic treatment will be provided, and your male partner can be enrolled at a time that suits him. He can be seen at the clinic, or enrolment can be over the phone. Enrolled couples are then followed for three months to see if couple treatment improves BV cure, compared to the current practice of female-only treatment.

You will be reimbursed for the time you spend taking part in this study. For more information, go to, email [email protected] or call (03) 9341 6244.