Bacterial Vaginosis in Men

Rebekah Kuschmider
Rebekah Kuschmider
February 24, 2024
4
min read
Technically reviewed by: 
Diagnox Staff
Bacterial Vaginosis in Men

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is a type of infection that is caused when there is an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. The vagina naturally contains a variety of bacteria, some of which are beneficial and others are harmful. If the harmful bacteria become overgrown, it causes a treatable infection [1].

Symptoms of BV include [2]:

  • Vaginal discharge that is thin in texture and that may be gray, white, or green.
  • Foul-smelling, "fishy" vaginal odor.
  • Itching.
  • Burning while urinating

Can Men Get Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

Anyone who has a vagina can develop BV. This includes anyone who has had a vagina since birth, as well as transwomen or others who have had vaginoplasty. Men and others who do not have a vagina are not at risk of developing bacterial vaginosis.

However, the same bacteria that cause BV can live in the urethra and on the penis. The presence of these bacteria does not lead to infection because the microbiome of the penis is so different from the vagina. BV-causing bacteria can live on the skin of the penis or in the urethra without causing symptoms. The presence of the bacteria doesn't cause any known health risks to men [3].

Clear information is the most valuable resource you can have on your side.
Stay in the loop!
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Is Bacterial Vaginosis Sexually Transmitted?

BV is not currently classified as a sexually transmitted infection because there are still questions about whether sexual contact transfers the bacteria from one partner to the other. There have been studies that show that men whose female partners have a history of BV can have colonies of the same bacteria on their penis [4].

Additional research suggested that when BV-cause bacteria are present on the penis, it can lead to women developing repeated infections. It's unclear how long a man can carry BV, but one study showed potential effects of the bacteria appearing over the course of 12 months [5].

What Are the Effects of Bacterial Vaginosis in Men?

While BV in men doesn't cause infection or lingering health issues, recurrent BV infections are problematic for women. Not only is BV uncomfortable, but it can also have negative effects during pregnancy, increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, and potentially increase the risk of other STIs [6].

Men may be able to help prevent the spread of the bacteria that cause BV by using safe sex and personal hygiene strategies, including [7]:

  • Use condoms during sexual intercourse.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners you have.
  • Wash your penis with gentle soap and warm water, including beneath the foreskin.

If your partner has recurrent episodes of bacterial vaginosis, talk to your doctor about what else you might be able to do to prevent passing bacteria back and forth. There is some evidence that probiotics or prebiotics can improve the balance of microflora to reduce the risk of BV [8]. Your doctor can help you choose the right supplements for your situation.

References

[1] Mayo Clinic Staff, "Bacterial vaginosis," Mayo Clinic [Accessed January 8, 2024]

[2] Mayo Clinic Staff, "Bacterial vaginosis," Mayo Clinic [Accessed January 8, 2024]

[3] IU School of Medicine Staff, "IU researchers discover a common bacterial infection can be sexually transmitted," Indiana University School of Medicine, 2023

[4] Zozaya, M., Ferris, M.J., Siren, J.D. et al. Bacterial communities in penile skin, male urethra, and vaginas of heterosexual couples with and without bacterial vaginosis. Microbiome 4, 16 (2016).

[5] Liu CM, Hungate BA, Tobian AA, et al. Penile Microbiota and Female Partner Bacterial Vaginosis in Rakai, Uganda. mBio. 2015;6(3):e00589. Published 2015 Jun 16. doi:10.1128/mBio.00589-15

[6] Cleveland Clinic Staff, "Bacterial Vaginosis," Cleveland Clinic, [Accessed January 8, 2024]

[7] Cleveland Clinic Staff, "Bacterial Vaginosis," Cleveland Clinic, [Accessed January 8, 2024]

[8] Abou Chacra L, Fenollar F, Diop K. Bacterial Vaginosis: What Do We Currently Know?. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2022;11:672429. Published 2022 Jan 18. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2021.672429

About the Author
Rebekah Kuschmider

Rebekah has been writing about culture, health, and politics since 2010. She has a masters degree in Arts Policy and Administration from The Ohio State University. Her work has been seen at WebMD, The Candidly, MedicineNet, YourTango, Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, Salon, Role Reboot, The Good Men Project, SheSaid, Huffington Post, and Mamamia. She is a former cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union. Rebekah lives in Maryland with her husband, two kids, and a dog who sheds a lot.

About the Reviewer
This blog was
Technically reviewed by: 
Diagnox Staff

Diagnox Staff consists of a multidisciplinary team of scientists, content writers, and healthcare professionals with an expertise to create and review high-quality, informative, accurate, and easy-to-understand content for both professionals and everyday readers. Our staff follows strict guidelines to ensure the credibility and authenticity of the information, reviewing them independently and verifying them by various scientific and technical sources to ensure accuracy. Our review team believes in delivering knowledge free from bias to improve public health and well-being.

Have a Question?

Questions are great. Drop us a note and we promise to get back to you soon.

Thank you! Your question has been received.
We will respond to you promptly.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Kindly try again.
If the problem persists, please drop us an email at contact@diagnoxhealth.com