A study of clotrimazole for the treatment of recurrent genital candidosis unexpectedly showed that symptoms and infection can be dissociated. The aim of the study was to see if intermittent antifungal treatment would reduce symptoms in women constantly distressed by recurrent genital candidosis. Forty women seriously affected by the condition were initially given oral and local antifungal treatment. When the patients were symptom-free and the vagina was free of yeasts, they were entered into a double-blind clinical trial and were treated prophylactically for four months with either intermittent clotrimazole pessaries and cream or a placebo. The prophylactic treatment kept symptoms below a critical level but did not affect the return of the yeasts to the vagina. This dissociation between symptoms and vaginal yeasts was unexpected. Rectal yeast carriage was unaffected by prophylactic vaginal treatment. Male contacts and patients both showed a high incidence of non-specific genital infection. This association has seldom been reported. A few patients cultured yeasts from their homes but this environment was not considered a major source of reinfection. The vaginal pH did not appear to be altered by the presence of yeasts. The results of the study suggested that symptoms in women with recurrent genital candidosis were not caused by yeasts alone, and possibly the reason for recurrences might lie not in constant reinfection by yeasts, but in failure to recognise and remove a primary underlying factor, perhaps infection with other sexually transmitted agents. The question of a synergistic action between yeasts and other organisms is discussed.
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