Gardnerella vaginalis

Gardnerella Vaginalis

What is Gardnerella Vaginalis?

Gardnerella vaginalis is a bacterium commonly associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV) in women, a common vaginal infection. Though part of the normal vaginal flora, its overgrowth can lead to uncomfortable symptoms and potential complications.

There is still debate about the significance of Gardnerella vaginalis in men. It has been found to be the most frequent bacterium found in the genitourinary tracts of men who either had symptoms or were worried after unprotected sex. However, most men with Gardnerella vaginalis have no symptoms at all. There are also no treatment recommendations for men because infection in men is not well-studied.

Symptoms and Signs

In Women:

  • Unusual Vaginal Discharge: Often grey or white with a fishy odour.
  • Itching or Irritation: Discomfort around the vagina.
  • Burning Sensation: During urination.

 In Men:

  • Mostly asymptomatic
  • Urethritis: Uncommonly, inflammation of the urethra causing discomfort or irritation.
  • Discharge: Occasionally, there may be a mild discharge from the penis.


For Women:

  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): If untreated, BV can lead to PID, causing pain and possibly affecting fertility.
  • Pregnancy Complications: Increased risk of preterm birth and low birth weight.

For Men:

  • Infection Risk: Rarely, urinary tract infections have been reported in men who have underlying medical problems such as diabetes, cancer, AIDS, kidney stones, stents and kidney transplant. Prostatitis has also been reported.
  • Partner Transmission: Men can harbour the bacteria and pass it back to a female partner even if they are asymptomatic.

Why Get Tested?

For Women:

  • Symptom Relief: Proper diagnosis can lead to effective treatment with antibiotics and symptom relief.
  • Prevent Complications: Early detection helps prevent progression to more serious conditions like PID.

For Men:

  • Reduce Risk: Knowing your status helps reduce the risk of unknowingly passing the bacteria to partners. There are no  recommendations on treating the male partners of women with bacterial vaginosis. This is because of conflicting results from studies. However, one study found that treating the male partners of women with BV by using antibiotic tablets and cream reduced the amount of bacteria in the female genital tract and helped to reduce the risk of recurrence.
  • Treatment: The jury is still out there but if you have symptoms and all other tests are negative, then it makes sense to get tested and then treated if you are found positive for Gardnerella vaginalis.

Testing and Treatment

Testing for Gardnerella vaginalis is simple and typically involves a swab of the affected area in women, or a urine test in both men and women. At STI Test London, we offer both swab and urine quick and confidential testing.

Treatment usually involves antibiotics which can effectively manage and clear the infection. For recurrent infections, your healthcare provider might suggest additional preventive measures.


Is Gardnerella vaginalis sexually transmitted?

Not strictly. It is associated with sexual activity but can occur without sexual contact. Transmission is possible but probably not the primary mode of spread.

Can Gardnerella vaginalis reoccur?

Yes, reinfection or recurrence of BV can happen with one study showing that up to 23% recurrence within one month of treatment, and up to 58% over 12 months.

Is testing painful?

No, the swab or urine tests are quick and and painless. They can easily be done at home or at the clinic.

Can I get tested if I don’t have symptoms?

Yes, especially if you suspect exposure or your partner has been diagnosed and they have recurrent infections.