Group B Strep vaginitis

Group B Strep – Streptococcus agalactiae – in the vagina is only starting to get more recognition, though there is still controversy over the impact of group B strep in the vagina. My Vagina understands GBS can and does cause vaginal infection and inflammation, often appearing alone or with other pathogens.

GBS can also be a benign element of the vaginal microflora, but if you have GBS detected and have symptoms, it’s not a bad place to start pointing the finger.

Some believe it is a benign coloniser only, while there is evidence that at minimum, other infections or inflammation of the vagina can result in higher levels of group B strep overall at the least. This doesn’t mean group B strep is the issue, per se, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t either.

It seems important to know at the least if you have high levels of group B strep in your vagina and that correlates to symptoms. The main reported symptoms being inflammation, itching and burning, with discharge.

GBS is almost always diagnosed as bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections or trichomoniasis (a sexually transmitted infection). This leaves many women without relief, untested (because many physicians don’t believe or understand that group B strep affects the vagina. GBS is often dismissed as a transient bug despite evidence to the contrary.

Symptoms of group B strep overgrowth/infection

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Discharge – clear or white
  • Red hot labia
  • Possible fissuring of labia
  • Inflammation

Streptococcus agalactiae is the gram-positive bacterium responsible for the vaginal and vulvar inflammation and discharge, but it also causes lactobacilli to become rarer in the vagina and cause the pH to become less acidic (which isn’t good in the vagina).

There are multiple strains of GBS being discovered, and that is one reason why it is hard to identify accurately. In addition, not all testing gear is created equal and can’t necessarily easily pick up these sorts of bacteria.

About Group B Strep (GBS)

This infection typically affects newborn babies and can result in life-threatening infections that cause septicaemia, meningitis and pneumonia. It can affect adults, and typically causes diseases of the skin, in soft tissues, the urinary tract, and bones and joints.

GBS is known to provoke an inflammatory reaction in the vagina, decrease lactobacilli populations, and causes very red and/or hot labia, perhaps even with vaginal fissures.

Treatment of GBS

The medical treatment of group B Strep vaginitis may be a combination of topical lactobacilli probiotics plus antibiotics. Partners should be treated also.

Identification failure and misdiagnosis of group B strep

Some GBS isolates are thought to be less common, which may contribute to misdiagnosis. Variants can behave differently, producing a variety of symptoms or no symptoms at all.

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)