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Bacteria may contribute to premature births, STDs

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New research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis points to a common species of bacteria as an important contributor to bacterial vaginosis, a condition linked to preterm birth and increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

The condition affects one in every three women, making it more common than yeast infections. But bacterial vaginosis often does not cause significant symptoms, leaving many women unaware they have it.

Dozens of bacterial species have been linked with bacterial vaginosis, leading to heated debates in the scientific community over which bacteria actually cause the condition and its complications. The new research provides evidence that mucus layers and cells lining the surface of the vagina are damaged in women with bacterial vaginosis and suggests that a single organism, Gardnerella vaginalis, is likely the cause.

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