Genital infections in women — highly common but largely unknown

Approximately 15 percent of women of childbearing age suffer from bacterial vaginosis. Despite its pervasiveness, a recent study commissioned by HealthTech company Dynamic Code found that 6 out of 10 women are completely unfamiliar with the infection. Furthermore, the symptoms are often confused with Candida (a fungus of the genital area), leading to incorrect treatments which can, in the worst case scenario, lead to further complications and other recurring problems.

Bacterial vaginosis and Candida are two common vaginal infections that primarily affect women of childbearing age. Bacterial vaginosis is a condition caused by an imbalance in the vaginal bacterial flora. Candida, on the other hand, is a fungal infection caused by the growth of fungi in the genital region. The symptoms are similar to each other, often producing odorous discharges and inciting itching in the affected area. Although their symptoms are similar, each issue requires a different kind of treatment.

Dynamic Code conducted a survey among women that showed that as many as 62 percent were unaware of what a bacterial vaginosis infection was despite it being a relatively common infection. Dynamic Code has helped to develop myriad health and diagnostic tests in the field of health care; for quite some time they have offered a private, at-home self-test to help women determine if they are suffering from a bacterial vaginosis or Candida infection.

“It is important to know the exact nature of your infection in order to receive the correct treatment. Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotics whereas fungal infections are treated with antifungal drugs. Because so many women do not realize that they suffer from bacterial vaginosis, they often treat the symptoms as if it were a fungus. If treated incorrectly, you risk not really addressing the underlying disease and symptoms,” said Dr. Per-Göran Larsson, chief physician and professor of obstetrics and gynaecology.

An especially important test for pregnant women

Because bacterial vaginosis can cause various complications, whereas a fungal infection is rarely so dangerous, it is important to know what type of infection you have — this is especially true for women that are pregnant or are considering having children.

“For pregnant women, it is especially important to get tested, as bacterial vaginosis can, in severe cases, lead to an increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight”, writes Dr. Per-Göran Larsson.

Clinical examination is often not enough

Traditional care typically diagnoses bacterial vaginosis through a clinical examination based on a whiff test, an examination of discharge flow, an acidity (pH) assessment, and a microscopy of vaginal secretions. Three out of the four criteria must indicate bacterial vaginosis before a diagnosis is made. That said, a typical clinical examination might not perform all four of these tests. The most important assessment — microscopy — is almost never performed in the clinic. Furthermore, even if a diagnosis is accurately made, the particular bacteria and species of fungi present are rarely determined.

Traditional health care often mischaracterizes the differences between bacterial vaginosis and fungal infections in women, as they have similar symptoms. Dynamic Code, however, aims to change this conflation. By making use of its secure diagnostic tests and increased expertise about women's health, the company has developed an effective and safe method for diagnosing bacterial vaginosis. Their test determines both the quantity of bacteria present in the genitals as well as the ratio between the various kinds.

“Traditional health care has major deficiencies, especially when it comes to women's health. We work to improve the conditions for women's health by providing better tools for diagnosis. We want to educate and empower women so that they can test themselves first in order to receive the correct diagnosis and treatment immediately, without ever having to leave home. In order for a doctor to make the right diagnosis and provide the correct treatment, it needs to be clear what the symptoms actually are. Our test reliably ensures that you get the answers you need,” commented Anne Kihlgren, founder and CEO of Dynamic Code.

More people prefer self-tests

The survey conducted by Dynamic Code shows that attitudes towards digital health care providers are becoming increasingly positive. In a similar vein, people tend to prefer at-home self-tests over visiting a health centre to collect samples. At-home self-tests are much faster, smoother, and are considered to be much more accessible. Recent surveys show that 65 percent of women prefer self-testing to determine whether they have bacterial vaginosis, Candida, or a urinary tract infection.

The company Dynamic Code offers a self-testing kit that identifies and quantifies the six most common bacterial strains that cause bacterial vaginosis as well as the four most common Candida species. Women are able to easily take the test by themselves and then return the kit to the Dynamic Code laboratory for analysis. The test results can be retrieved completely confidentially from the Dynamic Code website using a personal analysis code. If it turns out that the individual does have a bacterial vaginosis or Candida infection, they will be directed to a digital healthcare provider who can provide an e-prescription and further consultation.

Source: Origo Group/Dynamic Code – Awareness Survey 2019