Assessment of Atopobium vaginae and Gardnerella vaginalis concentrations in a cohort of pregnant South African women

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The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to assess Atopobium vaginae and Gardnerella vaginalis concentrations in pregnant women of different age groups, gestational age groups, vaginal flora categories and HIV status, and also to determine which DNA concentrations best discriminated between bacterial vaginosis (BV)-positive and non-BV categories.


Self-collected vaginal swabs were obtained from 220 pregnant women attending an antenatal clinic in Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa, from July 2012 to December 2012. BV was detected with the Nugent scoring system, and A. vaginae and G. vaginalis DNA was quantified with a multiplex quantitative real-time PCR assay.


Median concentrations of A. vaginae and G. vaginalis were not significantly different among various age groups (A. vaginae p=0.98 and G. vaginalis p=0.18) or different trimesters (A. vaginae p=0.31 and G. vaginalis p=0.19), but differed significantly among the vaginal flora categories (A. vaginae p<0.001 and G. vaginalis p<0.001) and HIV status (A. vaginae p<0.001 and G. vaginalis p=0.004). The presence of A. vaginae (OR=5.8; 95% CI 1.34 to 25.21 and p value=0.02) but not that of G. vaginalis (OR=1.90; 95% CI 0.81 to 4.43 and p value=0.14) was associated with HIV infection. An A. vaginae DNA concentration of ≥107 copies/mL together with a positive G. vaginalis result (≥100 copies/mL) best discriminated between BV-positive (39/220) and non-BV categories (181/220) with a sensitivity of 85% (95% CI 0.70 to 0.94) and a specificity of 82% (95% CI 0.76 to 0.88).


A. vaginae and G. vaginalis were present in high numbers and concentrations in this pregnant cohort. Threshold concentrations should be established for specific populations to ensure sensitive molecular assays for BV detection.

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