Knowing the difference between Bacterial Vaginosis and Thrush will help keep her phenomenal.

You may well wonder why it is important to know the difference between Bacterial Vaginosis and thrush. They both cause vaginal discharge, don’t they? Well, true enough, both infections do cause vaginal discharge, but the organisms responsible for the discharge and the treatment methods differ. Treatment for thrush will not have any effect on bacterial vaginosis and vice versa. 1,2

Thrush is a common vaginal infection, usually caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. The vaginal discharge associated with thrush is white, thick and may look like cottage cheese. 1 Vaginal discharge due to thrush as a rule does not have a funky fishy odour, although some women may notice a yeasty smell. Thrush may cause itching, soreness and redness around the vagina and vulva (the lips around the opening to the vagina), and some women may experience pain when urinating. 1,2 Thrush is caused by a fungus, and treatment needs to target fungi, and not bacteria. Treatment options include antifungal vaginal creams, vaginal tablets or vaginal suppositories. 2

Bacterial Vaginosis is even more common than thrush, and as its name suggests, is caused by bacteria.2,3,4 Your vagina has its very own colony of good bacteria called Lactobacilli, which maintain a delicate balance inside the vagina. These Lactobacilli bacteria produce lactic acid to maintain a slightly acidic environment inside the vagina (pH <4.5) to ensure a healthy vaginal lining and to protect the vagina against infections. Many harmful organisms do not grow so well in an acidic environment. When the balance is disturbed (there are too few Lactobacilli, or the pH of the vagina becomes too alkaline) harmful bacteria may grow and cause infection. 3,4

The vaginal discharge associated with Bacterial Vaginosis is usually thin, white or grey, and has an unpleasant fishy odour. You may also notice that the amount of discharge is more than usual.1,2  Unlike thrush, Bacterial Vaginosis does not usually result in an itchy, red or sore vulva or vagina. 1,2 Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis needs to target the harmful bacteria that caused the infection. It can be easily treated with an antibiotic for a period of 5 to 7 days. Intravaginal gel is recommended by expert health organisations around the world to treat Bacterial Vaginoses.1,5,6 This discreet gel is water-based, has no fragrance, and it is not likely to stain clothes.7

It is important to realise that Bacterial Vaginosis and thrush are not the only two causes of vaginal discharge. 2 If you feel uncertain about your vaginal health or discharge, please speak to your health care professional about your concerns. Stay phenomenal.

DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional

Name and business address: iNova Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd. Co. Reg. No. 1952/001640/07. 15E Riley Road, Bedfordview. Tel. No. 011 087 0000. IN2731/18


  1. Thrush and Bacterial vaginosis. Looking after your sexual health [online] [cited 22 March 2018]; Available from URL:
  2. Ries AJ. Treatment of Vaginal Infections: Candidiasis, Bacterial Vaginosis, and Trichomoniasis. J Am Pharm Assoc. 1997;NS37:563-9.
  3. Soper DE. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). Merck Manual Consumer Version [online] [cited 22 March 2018]; Available from URL:
  4. Smith SB, Ravel J. The vaginal microbiota, host defence and reproductive physiology. J Physiol 2017;2:451–463
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diseases Characterized by Vaginal Discharge [online] 28 January 2011 [cited 29 March 2018]; Available from URL:
  6. Autralian STI Management Guidelines for use in primary care- Bacterial Vaginosis. Accessed April 2018.
  7. Product approved package insert, October 2000