Probiotics for prevention of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis: a review

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2006 Aug;58(2):266-72. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkl246. Epub 2006 Jun 21.


Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) is a common infection affecting the quality of life of many women. Probiotics have been investigated as possible agents for the prevention of recurrences of VVC. We reviewed the available literature. In some studies the development of VVC was associated with either a low number of lactobacilli in the vagina or with the presence of H2O2-non-producing vaginal lactobacilli, although there are a few studies not supporting these statements. In addition, in vitro studies have shown that lactobacilli can inhibit the growth of Candida albicans and/or its adherence on the vaginal epithelium. The results of some clinical trials support the effectiveness of lactobacilli, especially Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus fermentum RC-14, administered either orally or intravaginally in colonizing the vagina and/or preventing the colonization and infection of the vagina by C. albicans, while the results of a small number of clinical trials do not corroborate these findings. Nevertheless, most of the relevant clinical trials had methodological problems such as small sample size, no control group (placebo) and included women without confirmed recurrent VVC, and thus they are not reliable for drawing definitive conclusions. Thus, the available evidence for the use of probiotics for prevention of recurrent VVC is limited. However, the empirical use of probiotics may be considered in women with frequent recurrence of VVC (more than three episodes per year), especially for those who have adverse effects from or contraindications for the use of antifungal agents, since adverse effects of probiotics are very rare. In any case women should be clearly informed about the unproven usefulness of probiotics for this purpose. In conclusion, despite the promising results of some studies, further research is needed to prove the effectiveness of probiotics in preventing the recurrences of VVC and to allow their wide use for this indication.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibiosis*
  • Candida albicans / growth & development*
  • Candidiasis, Vulvovaginal / microbiology
  • Candidiasis, Vulvovaginal / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus / physiology*
  • Probiotics / adverse effects
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*
  • Vagina / microbiology*