THE GRAM-NEGATIVE anaerobic bacilli that form part of the normal commensal flora of the vagina and cervix have been the subject of several investigations, but the results have been conflicting. The presence of in the vagina was first reported by Burdon (1928) who isolated from 28 out of 35 normal women. Mead and Louria (1969) and Suzuki and Ueno (1971, cited by Finegold 1977) found that were commonly present in the normal vaginal flora. Gorbach (1973) isolated spp. from the cervical flora of 57% of 30 healthy women and Sanders (1975) isolated spp. from endocervical cultures from 65% of 26 healthy women. However, Neary (1973) recovered spp. from only 8.6% of vaginal swabs from 246 pre-operative gynaecological patients and Leigh, Kershaw and Simmons (quoted by Leigh, 1976) isolated from only 4-6% of 500 women attending a family-planning clinic and 5% of 200 patients attending a gynaecological outpatient clinic. Hurley (1974) collected specimens of vaginal secretions from the posterior fornix of 280 unselected pregnant women and found spp. in only 15 (5-4%) and Werner (1978) isolated spp. from vaginal swabs from four out of 100 healthy pregnant women. In a quantitative study, Lindner, Plantema and Hoogkamp-Korstanje (1978) found that the mean log number of viable spp. per ml of vaginal secretions was 7-8 but they isolated spp. from only 4% of normal women, 1% of pregnant women and 28% of women with cervicitis.

The differences may reflect different methods of investigation. The vagina is not a single environment; the flora of the lower vagina is related to that of the perineum and introitus and differs from that of the cervix and fornices. Moreover, the physiological state of the vaginal mucosa and secretions changes with age, with the menstrual cycle and with pregnancy (Hurley , 1974).

The spp. isolated in most studies have not been identified and the relationship of these isolates to those from other sites is not clear. The present study was undertaken to determine the carriage of and identify the strains isolated from 20 normal healthy women attending a family-planning clinic.


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