Hydrogen peroxide production by Lactobacillus species: correlation with susceptibility to the spermicidal compound nonoxynol-9

J Infect Dis. 1992 Jun;165(6):1142-4. doi: 10.1093/infdis/165.6.1142.


Facultative anaerobic lactobacilli were recovered from the vaginas of 96.8% of 63 nonpregnant, healthy, premenopausal women. The predominant species were Lactobacillus jensenii, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus casei. Of the women, 74.6% had hydrogen peroxide-producing lactobacilli, 22.2% had non-hydrogen peroxide-producing lactobacilli, and 3.2% had no lactobacilli. None of the 68 isolates had catalase activity. Some 68.2% of the isolates were inhibited by concentrations of less than or equal to 1% (wt/vol) of nonoxynol-9 (bactericidal for 73.3% of isolates, bacteriostatic for 26.7%). The remaining 31.8% could grow in all concentrations to 25% (wt/vol) of nonoxynol-9. All of the lactobacilli that were sensitive to nonoxynol-9 produced hydrogen peroxide whereas only 3 of 21 resistant strains were hydrogen peroxide producers. A significant correlation (P less than .001, chi 2 test) was found between hydrogen peroxide production and sensitivity to nonoxynol-9. It is suggested that the vaginal flora of spermicide users could be depleted of hydrogen peroxide-producing lactobacilli, possibly increasing susceptibility to urogenital infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism*
  • Lactobacillus / drug effects
  • Lactobacillus / metabolism*
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus / drug effects
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus / metabolism
  • Lactobacillus casei / drug effects
  • Lactobacillus casei / metabolism
  • Nonoxynol
  • Polyethylene Glycols / pharmacology*
  • Spermatocidal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Vagina / microbiology*


  • Spermatocidal Agents
  • Nonoxynol
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Hydrogen Peroxide