Men do not cause yeast infections in women

December 18, 2003

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Women may blame their husbands or boyfriends for headaches, tears and stress. But they can't be blamed for those nasty recurrent yeast infections, contrary to popular belief.

A new study by University of Michigan Health System researchers finds that the presence of yeast in male sex partners do not make women more prone to recurrent yeast infections. Certain sexual activities, however, were linked to increased risk of recurrent yeast infections in women, according to the study.

"Many physicians, and many women, believe that women get recurrent yeast infections because their partner passes the yeast back to them during intercourse. This study refutes that belief," says study author Barbara Reed, M.D., M.S.P.H., professor of Family Medicine at the U-M Medical School. "This study suggests the risk for recurrent infections is related to something else - perhaps the woman's immune response to the yeast."

Candida vulvovaginitis, or yeast infection, is one of the most common diagnoses in American women. About three-quarters of women will have at least one yeast infection in their lives, and 40 percent have recurrent infections. The Candida yeast are often found in both women and men in the genital area, rectum and mouth.

In the study, published in the December Journal of Women's Health, researchers looked at 148 women with confirmed Candida vulvovaginitis and 78 of their male sexual partners. Each woman was examined by a doctor, who collected samples from the vagina, cervix, vulva, tongue and rectum. The men were asked to collect at home urine, fecal and semen samples and a tongue swabbing. The samples were analyzed by culture to determine whether Candida species were present at each site.

The women received treatment for their initial infection and were asked to return for follow-up visits after two weeks, four weeks, six months and a year. At each visit, they were asked about symptoms, sexual activity and changes in risk factors. Doctors repeated the pelvic exam and specimen collections.

The women were also told to return for testing any time they had symptoms of vaginal discharge, itching or odor. Doctors performed an exam and collected specimens at these visits as well. After the symptomatic visits, the men were also asked for new specimen collections. Thirty-three of the women developed at least one recurrent yeast infection within the year.

At the two-week and one-month visits, none of the women had symptoms of a yeast infection. But 20 percent had a positive culture for Candida in the vaginal area at the two-week visit and 29 percent tested positive for Candida after one month. The researchers found these women were no more likely to develop recurrent infections by the end of the one-year study period.

Among the men, nearly half tested positive for Candida species on the tongue and in the feces, while few showed Candida in their urine or semen. Researchers found no link between Candida in the men's specimens and Candida at the women's vulva, rectum or tongue. They also found no link between recurrent yeast infections and signs of Candida at any site in either the men or women.

When sexual activities were looked at, however, the researchers found women who had recurrences were more likely to have participated in cunnilingus (or oral sex given to the woman) or masturbation of the woman with saliva in the past month. Only 14.5 percent of women reported masturbation with saliva, however, while 69 percent reported cunnilingus, suggesting oral sex is the more common risk.

Oral sex and masturbation with saliva proved to be risk factors whether men showed signs of yeast in their mouth or not. The risk was also not affected by the presence of Candida in the women's genital area.

"We're not saying that oral sex is a problem for everyone, but if a women is experiencing recurrent yeast infections, those activities put her at an increased risk," Reed says.

The woman's age at first intercourse, lifetime number of partners, frequency of intercourse or anal intercourse in the previous month were all not associated with recurrences.

The researchers suggest that Candida exists in some women in balance with the other organisms and immune components in the vaginal area, and that washing that area with saliva may disrupt the balance, leading to symptoms of yeast infection.
-end-
The study received funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In addition to Reed, study authors include Philip Zazove, M.D., and Daniel W. Gorenflo, Ph.D., from the U-M Department of Family Medicine; Carl L. Pierson, Ph.D., from the U-M Department of Pathology; and Julie Horrocks, Ph.D., from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

University of Michigan Health System

Related Saliva Articles from Brightsurf:

Scientists detect long-lived antibodies in both blood and saliva of patients with COVID-19
Two separate studies have documented the persistence of antibodies that target SARS-CoV-2 in hundreds of patients with COVID-19 at least 3 months after symptom onset.

COVID-19: Saliva tests could detect silent carriers
Testing self-collected saliva samples could offer an easy and effective mass testing approach for detecting asymptomatic COVID-19.

Frequent use of antimicrobial drugs in early life shifts bacterial profiles in saliva
The strongest associations were presented with azithromycin that is used for example to middle ear infections, strep throat and pneumonia.

World-first saliva test detects hidden throat cancer
A series of saliva HPV tests detected an asymptomatic throat cancer during a trial of a new saliva diagnostic.

Saliva test for cannabis could someday help identify impaired drivers (video)
Those who consume alcohol and drive are often subjected to roadside stops, breathalyzer tests and stiff penalties if their blood alcohol content exceeds certain limits.

Study shows commonly used mouthwash could make saliva significantly more acidic
The first study looking at the effect of chlorhexidine mouthwash on the entire oral microbiome has found its use significantly increases the abundance of lactate-producing bacteria that lower saliva pH, and may increase the risk of tooth damage.

Biomarker in saliva predicts childhood obesity risk
The intriguing discovery, reported in the journal BMC Medical Genetics, supports ongoing efforts to identify biomarkers associated with the emergence of childhood obesity before body mass index (BMI) is designated as obese, said Shari Barkin, MD, MSHS, director of Pediatric Obesity Research at Monroe Carell Jr.

Saliva can be used to predict excess body fat in teenagers
Brazilian researchers found the level of uric acid in saliva to be a good indicator of body fat percentage in a study designed to identify reliable biomarkers that can be used to develop quick noninvasive tests for early detection of chronic diseases.

New way to bump off ticks: Dry up their saliva (video)
Saliva from a tick's bite can transmit pathogens that cause serious illnesses, such as Lyme disease, and significant agricultural losses.

You are what you eat: How the pursuit of carbs changed mammals' genes and saliva
A study of dozens of mammal species explores the evolutionary history of amylase, a compound that breaks down carbs.

Read More: Saliva News and Saliva Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.