Microbiology & Immunology Publications
Probiotics for urogenital health
Journal of Urology
URL with Digital Object Identifier
The most common spermicidal compound in use in North America is nonoxynol-9. Barrier methods of contraception used in combination with a spermicidal product help prevent a variety of sexually transmitted diseases. In 1991 the Centers for Disease Control reported a total of 620,478 cases of gonorrhea, 128,569 of syphilis, and 43,672 of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The evidence for antimicrobial activity of spermicides against sexually transmitted disease pathogens has been accumulated during the last 20 years from in vitro and in vivo studies on Neisseria gonorrhea, Treponema pallidum, Chlamydia trachomatis, Trichomonas vaginalis, Herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2, and the human immunodeficiency virus. Uropathogenic bacteria, including E. coli, Proteus mirabilis, Enterococcus faecalis and Staphylococcus species, have been found to grow in concentrations of 25% or greater of nonoxynol-9. Less well known is the effect of nonoxynol-9 on the growth of lactobacilli, the predominant organisms colonizing the vagina of most healthy postpubertal and premenopausal women, which according to in vitro studies could inhibit the colonization and ascending infection of the bladder by E. coli and as E. faecalis. The organisms associated with bacterial vaginosis have been found to be inhibited by low concentrations of nonoxynol-9 (0.0019-0.5%). However, spermicide use does not appear to have any effect on the development of bacterial vaginosis. Clinical studies to date, with one exception, have shown no significant differences in bacterial vaginosis infection rates among users of diaphragms, contraceptive sponges and condoms and other contraceptive methods that do not involve exposure to spermicides. A history of nonoxynol-9 use as well as the use of antimicrobial agents should be considered in recurrent urogenital infections, since both can potentially disrupt the urogenital microbial flora. The physician must weigh the risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases or an unwanted pregnancy against the prevention of urinary tract infection or vaginal candidiasis before advising the patient to discontinue the use of nonoxynol-9-containing spermicides.