To determine whether bacterial vaginosis (BV), also known as nonspecific vaginitis, could be diagnosed by evaluating a Gram stain of vaginal fluid, we examined samples from 60 women of whom 25 had clinical evidence of BV and 35 had candidal vaginitis or normal examinations. An inverse relationship between the quantity of the Lactobacillus morphotype (large gram-positive rods) and of the Gardnerella morphotype (small gram-variable rods) was noted on Gram stain (P less than 0.001). When Gram stain showed a predominance (3 to 4+) of the Lactobacillus morphotype with or without the Gardnerella morphotype, it was interpreted as normal. When Gram stain showed mixed flora consisting of gram-positive, gram-negative, or gram-variable bacteria and the Lactobacillus morphotype was decreased or absent (0 to 2+), the Gram stain was interpreted as consistent with BV. Gram stain was consistent with BV in 25 of 25 women given a clinical diagnosis of BV and in none of 35 women with candidal vaginitis or normal examinations. Duplicate slides prepared from 20 additional specimens of vaginal fluid were stained by two methods and examined by three evaluators. Interevaluator interpretations and intraevaluator interpretations of duplicate slides were in agreement with one another and with the clinical diagnosis greater than or equal to 90% of the time. We concluded that a microscopically detectable change in vaginal microflora from the Lactobacillus morphotype, with or without the Gardnerella morphotype (normal), to a mixed flora with few or no Lactobacillus morphotypes (BV) can be used in the diagnosis of BV.
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