Gardnerella vaginalis in BV

Gardnerella vaginalis is one of the primary microbes thought to be responsible for bacterial vaginosis (BV). 

Gardnerella vaginalis is a gram-variable facultative anaerobic bacteria discovered by Hermann Gardner in 1955.

G. vaginalis is gram-positive, but its cell wall is so thin, it appears to be gram-positive or gram-negative under a microscope.

Like most other ‘modern’ diseases, BV appears to be one stemming from the loss of normal flora in the vagina and reproductive tract, however, it can also be sexually transmitted by and to men.

So what does Gardnerella vaginalis do inside the vagina?

Epithelial cells make up the layer of the mucous membrane in your vagina that you can touch – the outer layer of the inside of your vagina. G. vaginalis lives on these vaginal epithelial cells, developing biofilms if given the opportunity.

Usually when your healthy flora is compromised in some way. G. vaginalis produces what is referred to as vaginolysin, a toxin, that only affects humans. G. vaginalis causes BV by displacing the normal healthy vaginal flora, and developing the healthy-flora-blocking sticky biofilm.

This biofilm is discussed in more detail in the bacterial biofilm post. G. vaginalis can only do this when the Lactobacillus biofilm is somehow interrupted enough to fall apart and let the unfriendly microbes in to take over.

This can occur with repeated antibiotic use, poor immunity in general, and a lack of friendly bacteria throughout the rest of your body. This imbalance – dysbiosis – can happen for a variety of reasons.

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)