OBJECTIVE--To compare the effect of lactic acid locally, metronidazole orally and placebo in women with bacterial vaginosis. DESIGN--Randomised clinical trial. SETTING--30 general practices in the Netherlands. PATIENTS--125 women consulting the general practitioner for symptomatic bacterial vaginosis. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Duration of subjective symptoms, recurrence of symptoms, clinically diagnosed cure, adverse events. RESULTS--Survival analysis showed a significantly faster disappearance of symptoms in the metronidazole category compared with both lactic acid and placebo (p = 0.0005 metronidazole v placebo, p = 0.0002 metronidazole v lactic acid p = 0.6521 lactic acid v placebo [The stratified Mantel Cox test]). The median duration until absence of symptoms was 21 days for metronidazole and 80 days for placebo. Disappearance of symptoms did not occur in 50% of the lactic acid group in 90 days. Recurrence rates of symptoms were similar over the treatment categories (p = 0.13 metronidazole v placebo and p = 0.12 lactic acid v placebo). After 2 weeks cure rates (cure defined as less than three of four clinical criteria present) were 83%, 49% and 47% for metronidazole, lactic acid and placebo category respectively. At that time cure rates (cure defined as none of three clinical criteria present) were 10%, 0% and 3%. After four weeks and three months these figures were: 55%, 20%, 20% and 64%, 28%, 28%. No differences in adverse events were found between the three interventions. CONCLUSIONS--Lactic acid suppositories are ineffective, metronidazole capsules are effective on signs and symptoms in bacterial vaginosis. A considerable proportion of the patients recover without active medication.
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