An Evaluation of the Natural History of Bacterial Vaginosis Using Transition Models

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Abstract

Background:

The natural history of bacterial vaginosis (BV) is complex given the variability across and within women over time. This article considers 3 different transition models for analyzing longitudinal BV data.

Methods:

Data from the Longitudinal Study of Vaginal Flora were used to evaluate 3 transition modeling strategies: (1) a Markov regression, (2) a Markov regression with random effects, and (3) a mover-stayer model. The effect of covariates on the transition process of BV, defined as a Nugent score of 7 to 10, was estimated using a logistic regression parameterization. Models were compared using various model assessment techniques. We analyzed a subset of women completing all 5 visits (n = 1731) as well as the complete data (n = 3626), in which 1 or more visit measurements were missing.

Results:

The Markov regression model had a poor fit to the data. A random-effects or mover-stayer model accounted for additional unexplained heterogeneity and had a better fit to the data. Across all models, douching was significantly associated with BV fluctuation. In the mover-stayer model, both douching and number of sexual partners were associated with persisting with (λ11 = 0.90, P < 0.001; λ12 = −0.41, P < 0.03, respectively) or without (λ01 = −0.73, P < 0.001; λ02 = −0.33, P = 0.023, respectively) BV across all visits. Using a random-effects model, we demonstrated that an individual propensity to initiate BV was positively associated with their propensity to resolve BV.

Conclusions:

Transition models that account for additional heterogeneity provide an attractive approach for describing the effect of covariates on the natural history of BV.

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