CDC/Dr. Mike Miller
People diagnosed with a vaginal yeast infection are usually prescribed an azole-based antifungal medication. But many know that’s often the beginning of a roller coaster of recurrent vaginal infections. This is likely because azole antifungals ransack the “good” bacterial populations of the vagina even as they kill the yeast.
A recent study published in Scientific Reports sought to leverage the idea that probiotics might be as effective as antifungals for yeast infections, while preventing the recurrences that so often follow the use of azoles.
The research team behind the study knew that sizeable populations of Lactobacillus bacteria inhabit the vagina throughout the course of a yeast infection. They reasoned that certain Lactobacillus strains are great at producing lactic acid, and could inhibit yeast growth. They carefully selected the strains of Lactobacillus that seemed to work best in laboratory studies and developed a probiotic gel that could be used to treat yeast infections.
Past studies of probiotics administered vaginally during a yeast infection were always combined with the antifungal treatment standard. But this time, the 20 study participants were given only the probiotic gel, with an emergency course of the antifungal as back-up. The gel alone worked for 45% of the participants, those whose infections were relatively minor and not recurrent. With further tweaking and a lot more testing, azole antifungal treatments may be a thing of the past.