Vulval Infection – Nonsexually Transmitted

Vulval Infection – Nonsexually Transmitted

The two most common vulval infections not transmitted via a sexual route are candidiasis and bacterial vaginosis. In both cases, the normal balance of the flora of the vulva and vagina is upset, causing overgrowth of organisms leading to symptoms.

However, there are several less common infections that occur on the vulva that are not transmitted via sexual contact. Many of these are rare in the developed world but are listed in Table 18.1. Advice should be sought from experts in tropical medicine regarding diagnosis and management where relevant.

Table 18.1 Nonsexually transmitted vulval infections.

Clinical features Diagnosis Treatment
Nematode infection Threadworm infection
(Enterobius vermicularis)
Common infection in children; anal and vulval pruritus Identification of the threadworms or eggs on perianal skin – can be seen by applying adhesive tape to the skin and examining microscopically Piperazine or mebendazole
  Filariasisa Lymphoedema and elephantiasis Histology Diethylcarbazine in increasing doses. Surgery may be required
Trematode (fluke) infection Schistosomiasisa Usually occurs before puberty with granulomatous nodules; swelling and scarring can occur Ova are seen in the urine. ELISA tests available Praziquantel
Protozoa Leishmaniasisa Large ulcers that can be similar to those seen in syphilis or donovanosis Histology or specialized culture Sodium stilbogluconate or antimony preparations
  Amoebiasisa caused by Entamoeba histolytica Abscesses on vulva, perineum or cervix with lymphadenopathy Amoebae may be seen in the ulcers or on scrapings from cervix Metronidazole
Mycobacterial infection Tuberculosisa Vulval involvement less common than upper genital tract; nodules, ulcers and scars occur; more common in immunosuppressed patients Histology Antituberculous treatment
  Leprosya Can be direct inoculation of the vulva or involvement by haematogenous spread   Expert advice
Other bacterial infections Actinomycosis Actinomycosis species can infect intrauterine devices Culture and histology Penicillin is first line, but Tetracyclines, clindamycin and erythromycin are alternative treatments.
  Mycoplasma Ureaplasma and mycoplasma species may be found in the vagina in asymptomatic patients; Bartholin’s abscesses may occur Culture and histology As for actinomycosis


aAsk for expert advice on investigation and management.

Bacterial Infections

  • Bacterial vaginosis.
  • Erythrasma.
  • Staphylococcal and streptococcal infection.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the commonest cause of a vaginal discharge in women during the reproductive years and is due to an imbalance in the normal flora causing overgrowth of Gardnerella vaginalis. It has been associated with pre‐term birth and endometritis.

Clinical features

The classic feature is of an offensive profuse vaginal discharge. Inflammation is not generally associated, but the discharge can cause an irritant vulval dermatitis in some women.


The Amsel diagnostic criteria include a white discharge, vaginal pH .4.5, clue cells on direct microscopy and a fishy odour with the addition of 10% potassium hydroxide.


Metronidazole or clindamycin are recommended.

Further reading

  1. Donders, G., Zodzika, J. and Rezeberga, D. (2014) Treatment of bacterial vaginosis: what we have and what we miss. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy 15, 645–657.

Useful Web Sites for Patient Information

BASHH patient information:

CDC guidance:

UK National Guideline for the Management of Bacterial Vaginosis 2012:


Erythrasma is an infection caused by Corynebacterium minutissimum, a Gram‐positive aerobic bacterium It is found on normal skin but particularly favours moist environments, therefore vulval involvement is common. Predisposing factors include immunosuppression, diabetes and obesity.

Clinical features

The areas are well demarcated (Figure 18.1) with superficial scaling at the edge (Figure 18.2). There may be a red / brown discoloration to the plaques with lesions at other sites, including the axillae and under the breasts.

Photo displaying a vulva with erythrasma.

Figure 18.1 Erythrasma.

Photo displaying a skin with scaly edge to the plaques.

Figure 18.2 Scaly edge to the plaques.

Differential diagnosis

Tinea cruris is the major differential diagnosis and the two infections can sometimes occur together.


Microscopy of skin scrapings (see Chapter 5) can identify the organism. The diagnosis can also be made by using a Wood’s lamp as affected areas will show a coral‐pink fluorescence due to the presence of a porphyrin.

Basic Management

Topical treatment with fusidic acid cream or topical erythromycin may be effective. Oral erythromycin 250 mg four times a day for 2 weeks is used in more severe infections.

Useful Web Site for Patient Information


Staphylococcal and Streptococcal Infections

These two common pathogenic bacteria cause a range of clinical patterns of infection (see Table 18.2).

Table 18.2 Staphylococcal and streptococcal infections.

Staphylococcus Streptococcus Either
Folliculitis Streptococcal perianal dermatitis Cellulitis
Bartholin’s gland abscess Necrotizing fasciitis
Toxic shock syndrome  
Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome    


Staphyloccous aureus is the usual agent responsible for folliculitis, a pustular infection around hair follicles, boils and abscesses. The increasingly recognized variant of S. aureus, PVL (Panton Leucocidin Valentine) can cause infection in the vulval area.


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Mar 15, 2018 | Posted by in OBSTETRICS | Comments Off on Vulval Infection – Nonsexually Transmitted
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