Can Men Get Bacterial Vaginosis?

bacterial vaginosis men

Bacterial vaginosis does not affect men. It is a vaginal infection that primarily affects women and is caused by an imbalance of harmful and good bacteria.

Bacterial vaginosis is an infection of the vagina that occurs due to an imbalance of certain bacteria called lactobacilli. These are beneficial bacteria that maintain good vaginal health.

Under certain circumstances, lactobacilli are replaced with anaerobic bacteria. This bacteria is harmful and disturbs the natural flora of the vagina. As a result, itching or burning sensation of the vagina occurs. This condition is known as bacterial vaginosis.

This infection is common in women ages15-45. Men cannot get this condition because they do not have a subtle balance of microbiota in their penis. It is also a myth that BV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Read on whether men can spread BV to their partners or not.

Can men spread bacterial vaginosis?

It is uncertain whether men can spread bacterial vaginosis to their partners or not. Women are more prone to bacterial vaginosis. Sexually active women are more likely to develop this condition than others. Even women having sex with women can also develop the infection.

Some research suggests that men can also transfer the infection to women. Men having more than one sexual partner are more likely to spread this infection to other women – a study in 2015 claimed.

This study also suggests that those men can transfer this infection to their partners when having unprotected sex.

Causes of similar symptoms in men

Men can develop bacterial vaginosis-like symptoms. Several factors contribute to it like discharge from the penis, itching, and fungal infection.

1. Sexually transmitted infections

Different sexually transmitted infections seem similar to BV. STIs spread through practicing unprotected sex methods. STIs that have symptoms similar to bacterial vaginosis include:

Trichomoniasis: an infection caused by a parasite that causes the foul smell, discharge, itching, and painful urination.

Gonorrhea: an infection caused by bacteria that affects the urethra, throat, and rectum in both men and women. It happens due to vaginal, anal, or oral sex. 

Genital herpes: a sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes virus. Unprotected sex is the main cause of virus spread. 

Chlamydia: a bacterial infection that affects the throat, rectum, urethra in men and women. 

HIV: human immunodeficiency virus infects the immune system of humans. It attacks the white blood cells, and if left untreated leads to AIDS.

2. Thrush

Thrush is commonly known as a yeast infection. It can cause infection of the vagina, mouth, lips, and penis. Thrush happens when Candida Albicans – a type of fungus – begins to grow abnormally. This condition is common in women – however, men can also develop a yeast infection.

It causes itching of the penis. Sometimes it also develops the piles under the penis foreskin. Thrush has similar symptoms to bacterial vaginosis. That is why it is confused with BV.

Yeast infection happens because of wearing tight clothes. Excessive sweating can be another reason for thrush. Men can develop and spread yeast infections through unprotected sex. It is good to wear loose clothes and practice safe sex methods.

3. Urinary tract infection

Urinary tract infections happen when there is excessive growth of bacteria in the ureters or bladder. The bacteria in the urethra (opening in the bladder) move up the bladder and kidneys.

It causes inflammation of the urinary tract followed by bloody urine or pain. Urinary tract infections are usually linked with women, but men can also develop these infections.

4. Balanitis

Sometimes swelling of the penis lead to a condition known as balanitis. It can be due to STIs, cleaning the penis with scented products, or no cleaning at all. Diabetes and arthritis also contribute to balanitis.

It causes irritation and itching of the penis. This condition is common in men having a foreskin. The swelling of the foreskin is sometimes so severe that it cannot be pulled back.

How can men avoid bacterial vaginosis?

Keep in mind you cannot get this infection from toilet seats and swimming pools. You can always reduce the risk of developing bacterial vaginosis by adopting a few habits:

  • Always practice safe sex methods to avoid the spread of bacterial vaginosis. Wear a condom or use dental dams to protect yourself from developing the infection. These methods will prevent you from developing various STIs and bacterial vaginosis.
  • Adopt hygiene practices. Clean your penis to avoid the overgrowth of bacteria. Make sure to clean your foreskin and penis to avoid balanitis.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners.
  • Wear loose clothes. Try to use breathable undergarments to ventilate your genitals, especially if you sweat too much. Do not put on tight underwear while doing exercise. 


Men cannot develop bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis is the infection of the vagina that occurs only in women due to an imbalance of harmful and beneficial bacteria.

Men can carry the infection-causing bacteria on their penis from a sex partner and transfer it to other women. If men have similar symptoms to BV, it can be due to some other reason or STIs.

If you have any condition similar to bacterial vaginosis: immediately talk to your doctor. Identify the underlying health issue and get proper treatment to avoid the spread of disease to others. 

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