(CNN)Ever heard of bacterial vaginosis? It’s caused when the normal bacterial flora in the vagina go haywire, allowing “bad” bacteria to proliferate.
If the answer is no, you’re not alone. Even though bacterial vaginosis, otherwise known as BV, is the most common vaginal infection in women between the ages 15 and 44, many have never heard of it.
Yet bacterial vaginosis is a serious condition, difficult to treat and eliminate. If a woman is infected during a pregnancy, vaginosis can cause the baby to be born prematurely or with a low birth weight.
What’s more, BV also leaves women at higher risk for contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea — diseases which can trigger pelvic inflammatory disease and dash any hopes of having children.
Vaginosis affects 20% of women worldwide, with more than 21 million of those in the United States, studies have shown. Yet only some 4 million women in the US currently receive treatments, which are often ineffective.
“Antibiotic treatment of BV has limited long-term success, with up to 50% of women having recurrence within 6 months, so we need more effective approaches to treatment,” said Supriya Mehta, an epidemiologist at University of Illinois at Chicago.