Probiotics for Treatment and Prevention of Urogenital Infections in Women: A Systematic Review

J Midwifery Womens Health. 2016 May;61(3):339-55. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12472.


Introduction: Probiotics are a complementary and integrative therapy useful in the treatment and prevention of urogenital infections in women. This study extends the work of researchers who systematically investigated the scientific literature on probiotics to prevent or treat urogenital infections.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted to determine the efficacy of probiotics for prevention and/or treatment of urogenital infections in adult women from January 1, 2008, through June 30, 2015. We searched in CINAHL, MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Web of Science, Dissertations and Theses, and Alt-HealthWatch. After removing duplicates and studies that did not meet inclusion criteria, 20 studies were reviewed. All included at least one species of Lactobacillus probiotic as an intervention for treatment or prevention of urogenital infections. Data extracted included samples, settings, study designs, intervention types, reported outcomes, follow-up periods, and results. We evaluated all randomized controlled trials for risk of bias and made quality appraisals on all studies.

Results: Fourteen of the studies focused on bacterial vaginosis (BV), 3 on urinary tract infections (UTIs), 2 on vulvovaginal candidiasis, and one on human papillomavirus (HPV) as identified on Papanicolaou test. Studies were heterogeneous in terms of design, intervention, and outcomes. Four studies were of good quality, 9 of fair, and 7 poor. Probiotic interventions were effective for treatment and prevention of BV, prevention of recurrences of candidiasis and UTIs, and clearing HPV lesions. No study reported significant adverse events related to the probiotic intervention.

Discussion: The quality of the studies in this systematic review varied. Although clinical practice recommendations were limited by the strength of evidence, probiotic interventions were effective in treatment and prevention of urogenital infections as alternatives or co-treatments. More good quality research is needed to strengthen the body of evidence needed for application by clinicians.

Keywords: infections; probiotics; systematic review; urogenital; women's health.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Candidiasis, Vulvovaginal / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Papillomavirus Infections / therapy*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urinary Tract Infections / therapy*
  • Vaginosis, Bacterial / therapy*