Synova Healthcare has announced the availability of a home-testing kit called Fem-V that is used for the diagnosis of vaginal infections Here is the link to the press release and below is an excerpt from the it (emphasis mine):
For the millions of American women who experience vaginal infections annually, this easy-to-use at-home test will help determine if an over-the-counter treatment may be considered, or if they should seek treatment from a
healthcare professional.... Bacterial Vaginitis (BV) is the most common cause of vaginal infection. However, commonly used over-the-counter anti-fungal treatments are not effective against BV. The Fem-V(TM) Vaginal Infection Test allows women to determine the likely cause of their symptoms prior to treatment.
I was surprised about the claim above that bacterial vaginitis is the most common cause of vaginal infection. I would have thought that candidiasis was more common. I did a quick search of the literature and came up with one recent article. Here is the link of the article from PubMed and below is a quote from it. In this one article, candidiasis was observed as being more prevalent than bacterial infection as the cause of vaginitis/vaginosis. Vaginosis is a condition caused by the overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina, resulting in irritation and discharge.
This was a cross-sectional study meant to determine the prevalence of vaginitis and bacterial vaginosis among open population females from Cuernavaca City....Overall, 193 out of 405 women (47.7%) had some genital infection; most frequent was candidiasis with a prevalence of 105/405 (26%), bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis were present in 67/405 (16.5%) and 7/405 (1.7%) of the population, respectively.... One important factor linked to bacterial vaginosis was to have had premature labor. Therapeutic responses, with clinical and microbiological cure, were 92% for candidiasis; 93% for bacterial vaginosis; and 100% for trichomoniasis.
I was also curious about the technology used for the Fem-V strip, naively assuming that it was based on some complex biochemical reaction. Below is a description of the "technology" underlying the test and here is the link to the article:
Fem-V is a diagnostic strip placed inside a panty liner. The strip measures the acidity, or pH level, of the vaginal discharge. It also measures whether the discharge is watery or not. “If you have higher-than-normal pH and you have a watery discharge, which is what our test determines, there is a high likelihood that your infection is caused by bacteria or a parasite called trichomoniasis,” ....
The Fem-V strip may be useful for home diagnosis but it appears to me that there may be an erroneous claim in the press release that describes the prevalence of bacterial infection of the vagina. It also appears that the "science" behind the product is not very sophisticated and that the test does not distinguish between bacterial and trichomonal infection.
:: Update on 4/10/2006 @ 2:42 p.m.
EW made the following comment on 4/3/2006:
The prevalence numbers might reflect differences in definitions. From looking at PAP smears, bacterial vaginosis is about 10x more frequent than Candidiasis. If one defines vaginitis as a symptomatic infection, the numbers are much different. So both could be right. As for the diagnostic accuracy of pH paper in the panties, consider it a screening test: useful, but not enough.
I am way out of my league on this topic so I consulted with my cytopathologist colleague, Dr. Claire W. Michael, about the diagnosis of vaginosis/vaginitis on a Pap smear. She had no comment about the diagnosis of vaginosis, but suggested that the presence of so-called "clue" cells on the smear (superficial epithelial cells with adherent bacteria) would suggest a "shift in the bacterial vaginal flora" which should then be reported to the clinician. The treating physician could then confirm the diagnosis of vaginitis on the basis of the patient's symptoms, clinical observations, and a wet mount of vaginal fluid.
:: Update on 4/18/2006 @ 10:16 a.m.
Here is a link to a very instructive discussion of bacterial vaginosis (BV).