Hadassah Researchers Report Pioneering Treatment for Chronic Bacterial Vaginosis in Nature Medicine

Thursday, Oct 31 2019

Contact: Renee Young
Hadassah National Public Relations

October 31, 2019 – NEW YORK, NY – Researchers at Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have developed the first vaginal discharge transplant, known as Microbiome Transplantation as a treatment for chronic bacterial vaginosis (BV), according to Ellen Hershkin, President, Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. (HWZOA), which operates HMO. The  study results were published in the peer review Nature Medicine on October 7, 2019. The research team was led by Hadassah's Dr. Ahinoam Lev-Sagie and Weizman’s Prof. Eran Einan.

Chronic Bacterial Vaginosis is a condition which 22.2M women in the U. S, ages 14-49 have, or 29% of the female population.  According to the CDC:

  • 84% of women found to have BV have no symptoms
  • 18% of women affected by BV have had zero sexual contact
  • 25% of pregnant women have been affected by BV
  • 31% of women who have ever been pregnant have been affected by BV
  • BV is the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15-44
  • BV can increase the chances of getting HIV or other STD's 
  • 60% of women with BV have an STD

According to the study results, bacteria transplant may help women with recurrent vaginosis.  The transplantation of vaginal fluid containing healthy microbes is associated with the clinical improvement of bacterial vaginosis in four out of five women who had previously not responded to antibiotic treatment.  

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common condition in which there is a change in the natural balance of microbes in the vagina. In most cases, this change does not require treatment or can be resolved with antibiotic treatment. However, in a subset of women it can cause extreme discomfort, become disruptive to the woman’s life and increase her chances of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases or developing other genitourinary problems.

Dr. Achinoam Lev-Sagie and Dr. Eran Elinav selected five patients who had a history of recurrent bacterial vaginosis symptoms and had not responded to antibiotics to receive the vaginal microbiome transplant. The vaginal fluid donors went through a rigorous screening process to exclude the presence of potential infections and were counseled to abstain from sexual activity prior to the donation of vaginal fluid. After the transplant, the authors observed no adverse effects, and four of the five patients treated showed a marked improvement of symptoms 5- 21 months after transplantation; the fifth showed incomplete remission. The team also found that the vaginal microbiomes of the four patients who showed clinical improvement were enriched with Lactobacillus microbes. These microbes have been associated with a healthy vaginal microbiome environment in previous studies.

Although all patients in this small study benefited from the microbiome therapy to some extent, the authors conclude that randomized placebo-controlled trials are required to test the therapeutic efficacy of vaginal microbiome transplant.

Lev Sagie, a specialist in vulva and vaginal disorders. noted that during her many years treating patients, a high percentage of the patients who would come in with BV, would come back with a year, suffering from the same results.  “I could not cure them with antibiotics,” she remarked.  When her associate, Dr. Deborah Goldman-Wohl took note of fecal micobiome transplantation, the team theorized that a new approach to BV could be developed using the same principle.  

Dr. Ahinoam Lev-Sagie is a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She completed her Medical Degree at the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine in 1998. Later she completed her Ob/Gyn residency at  Hadassah Mount Scopus and became a specialist in 2006. During the years 2006-2008 she was trained in the USA in the clinical aspects of vulvar and vaginal disorders and was also a research fellow in the Division of Immunology and Infectious Diseases of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, NY.

Dr. Lev-Sagie established and runs two Vulvovaginal clinics at the Hadassah Medical Organization and at “Clalit” health care medical union in Jerusalem. The goal of the clinics is to evaluate and treat women with chronic or recurrent vulvo-vaginal symptoms, including dyspareunia and genital pain. As part of her interest in vulvovaginal disorders, Dr. Lev-Sagie is engages in both basic science and clinical research in this area. She is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and continuously teaches medical students.

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. (HWZOA) is the largest Jewish women’s organization in the United States. With 300,000 members, associates and supporters Hadassah brings Jewish women together to effect change and advocate on critical issues such as women’s health equity and the security of Israel.  Through the Hadassah Medical Organization's two hospitals, the world-renowned trauma center and the leading research facility in Jerusalem, Hadassah supports the delivery of exemplary patient care to over a million people every year. HMO serves without regard to race, religion or nationality and earned a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2005 for building “bridges to peace” through equality in medical treatment. For more information, visit my.hadassah.org.

Learn more about the Hadassah Medical Organization.

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