Bacterial vaginosis, also known as Gardnerella, is a disease that can arise on its own or be sexually transmitted. It is caused by replacement of the Lactobacillus family bacteria inside the vagina with other types, causing abnormal odor and discharge. These other types of bacteria are also naturally present in the vagina, but usually in smaller concentrations.

How It Is Transmitted

Due to the nature of Gardnerella, it is not necessarily transmitted at all. It is possible for a woman to develop it without sexual contact. The majority of women who are diagnosed with Gardnerella are sexually active, but this does not mean that it was given to them by a partner.

In truth, research is not conclusive on how it develops. Gardnerella is linked to an imbalance in bacteria, and it is known that having new or multiple sex partners can disturb this balance. Thus, it is theorized that it is less sexually transmitted and more caused by sexual acts. Despite this, it is generally classified as an STD.

Who It Affects

Gardnerella is a condition that exclusively affects women, as its only known mechanism of action is creating a bacterial imbalance in the vagina. The overwhelming majority of women with the condition are sexually active, usually having had multiple sexual partners. However, it can impact any woman, no matter her sexual history.


As much as half of all women with Gardnerella are asymptomatic. For the other half of those with the condition, it causes unusual odors, often described as fishy, as well as discharge that is different from the norm. This discharge can be yellow or white and is thinner than that caused by yeast infections. In rare cases, it can cause irritation to the vulva and pain during vaginal intercourse.

Symptoms that might be used as diagnostic criteria include:

  • A thin, white coating on the vaginal walls
  • Low acidity in the vagina
  • Unusual odor, especially when combining the discharge with a drop of potassium hydroxide


Despite it being common and asymptomatic in many women, Gardnerella carries significant health risks, which include:

  • Greater susceptibility to HIV
  • Greater ability to pass on HIV to others
  • Increased likelihood of early labor in pregnant women
  • Increased likelihood of contracting other STDs
  • Higher chances of developing pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Infertility

Because Gardnerella is often asymptomatic, any woman who is sexually active should be tested for it at least once a year. LetsGetChecked comprehensive STD check can diagnose the presence of Gardnerella, as well as 9 other sexually transmitted disease.