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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Risk of Gonococcal Infection During Vaginal Exposure is Associated With High Vaginal pH and Active Menstruation.

  • Author(s): McLaughlin, Stephanie E
  • Ghanem, Khalil G
  • Zenilman, Jonathan M
  • Griffiss, J McLeod
  • et al.

BACKGROUND:An understanding of the biological reasons why 25% to 35% of women resist infection during vaginal intercourse with a man infected with Neisseria gonorrhoeae could lead to novel control measures. We sought modifiable biological bases for infection resistance by comparing women in the same core-mixing group who did or did not become infected after sexual exposure. METHODS:We enrolled 61 female contacts of index men with gonorrhea seen at Baltimore City Health Department clinics from January 2008 through May 2012. Exposure and sexual practices and histories, co-infections, physical signs on exam, patient symptom report, and menstrual history were collected. RESULTS:Thirty-eight (62.3%) of the exposed women developed cervical infections. Multiple logistic regression found that a vaginal pH of 4.5 or higher at presentation to clinic was significantly associated with gonococcal infection (adjusted odds ratio, 5.5; P = 0.037) in women who presented within one menstrual cycle, 35 days. In this group of women, there was a significant association between acquiring an N. gonorrhoeae cervical infection and sexual exposure during menstruation (adjusted odds ratio 12.5; P = 0.05). CONCLUSIONS:Modification of vaginal pH could be explored as novel strategy for reducing the risk of N. gonorrhoeae infections in women.

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