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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Comparison of oral and vaginal metronidazole for treatment of bacterial vaginosis in pregnancy: impact on fastidious bacteria

Caroline M Mitchell1*, Jane E Hitti1, Kathy J Agnew1 and David N Fredricks2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

2 Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2009, 9:89  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-89

Published: 10 June 2009



Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common condition that is associated with preterm birth and acquisition of complex communities of vaginal bacteria that include several fastidious species. Treatment of BV in pregnancy has mixed effects on the risk of preterm delivery, which some hypothesize is due to variable antibiotic efficacy for the fastidious bacteria. Both oral and intravaginal metronidazole can be used to treat bacterial vaginosis in pregnancy, but little is known about the impact of different routes of antibiotic administration on concentrations of fastidious vaginal bacteria.


This was a sub-study of a larger randomized trial of oral versus vaginal metronidazole for treatment of BV in pregnancy. Fifty-three women were evaluated, including 30 women who received oral metronidazole and 23 who received intravaginal metronidazole. Bacterial taxon-specific quantitative PCR assays were used to measure concentrations of bacterial vaginosis associated bacterium (BVAB) 1, 2, and 3, Gardnerella vaginalis, Atopobium species, Leptotrichia/Sneathia species, Megasphaera species, and Lactobacillus crispatus before and after antibiotic treatment.


Concentrations of Leptotrichia and Sneathia spp. and the fastidious Clostridia-like bacterium designated BVAB1 decreased significantly with oral (p = .002, p = .02) but not vaginal therapy (p = .141, p = .126). The fastidious bacterium BVAB3 did not significantly decrease with either treatment. Concentrations of Atopobium spp., reportedly resistant to metronidazole in vitro, dropped significantly with oral (p = .002) and vaginal (p = .001) treatment. There was no significant difference in the magnitude of change in bacterial concentrations between oral and vaginal treatment arms for any of the bacterial species. Lactobacillus crispatus concentrations did not change.


Both oral and vaginal metronidazole therapy in pregnant women result in a significant decrease in concentrations of most BV-associated anaerobic bacteria, with the exception that Leptotrichia, Sneathia and BVAB1 do not significantly decrease with vaginal metronidazole therapy. These data suggest that the route of antibiotic administration has a minor impact on bacterial eradication in pregnant women with BV.

Trail Registration

This trial is registered with, number NCT00153517