Can Men Get Bacterial Vaginosis?

Medically Reviewed By Stacy A. Henigsman, DO
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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a bacterial infection of the vagina. Males cannot get BV. However, they can pass the bacteria on to female partners. One way to prevent BV is by using condoms or other barrier methods when having sex, among other prevention methods.

Sex and gender exist on a spectrum. This article uses the terms “female” and/or “male” to refer to sex that was assigned at birth. 

Learn more about the difference between sex and gender here.

More people search using the term “women or men,” so this is used throughout the piece to reflect that trend.

This article explains why males cannot get BV. It also discusses how they can pass it on to female partners and what conditions in males can cause similar symptoms. Finally, it gives tips on how to prevent BV.

Is bacterial vaginosis in men possible?

Image of a male's lap with a pink tulip in the forefront
Photography by Juan Moyano/Stocky United

Males cannot get BV because the penis does not carry the same delicate balance of bacteria as the vagina.

BV is a condition that occurs when there is too much of a bacteria type in the vagina. This causes an imbalance in the bacteria typically in the vagina already.

Some conditions in males may cause similar symptoms to BV. These include certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), balanitis, and thrush.

Read more about bacterial vaginosis.

Can men transmit bacterial vaginosis?

A 2020 study showed that BV may be sexually transmissible from male partners to female partners.

Another study from the same year shared that it may be possible for males to carry the bacteria that lead to BV. This can make the recurrence of BV in females more frequent, which may reduce the effectiveness of BV treatment for females.

It is possible that treating the male partner for BV may reduce the female’s chance of BV recurrence. However, experts need to perform more research to know this for sure.

What conditions cause similar symptoms in men?

There are several conditions that can cause similar symptoms of BV in males. These symptoms include itching, discharge, and odor.


Several STIs can cause similar symptoms to BV. Some of these STIs include:

People can transmit STIs through sexual activity without a condom or other barrier methods.

Read more about STIs.


Thrush is also known as a yeast infection. A buildup of a fungus called Candida albicans causes it.

Thrush can cause symptoms similar to BV, including itching, discharge, and an unpleasant odor. While experts do not classify thrush as an STI, people can pass it to each other when they have sex without a condom or another barrier method.

Learn more about yeast infections in males.


Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis. It affects between 3–11% of males.

Balanitis can occur at any age. It is more common in males who are uncircumcised. Common causes of balanitis include:

  • insufficiently washing your penis
  • thrush or yeast infections
  • STIs
  • certain soaps or other substances that cause irritation
  • diabetes

Read more about balanitis.

Can bacterial vaginosis be prevented?

There are ways females can prevent BV from occurring. These prevention methods include:

  • practicing sexual abstinence, if possible
  • avoiding douching
  • using condoms or other barrier methods when having sex

Other frequently asked questions

Stacy A. Henigsman, D.O., reviewed these questions people frequently asked about BV.

Should my male partner be treated for BV?

Currently, research shows that treating a male partner may not reduce the chance of recurrence in a female partner. However, experts have performed studies to see if treating male partners may stop the transmission of BV to female partners.

One 2020 study found that females whose male partners were also treated for BV were more likely to see treatment effectiveness.

Why do I keep getting BV from my partner?

It is possible for male partners to carry the bacteria that causes BV. Your partner may be carrying this bacteria and transmitting it during sexual activity.

How do males get BV bacteria?

BV can be sexually transmissible. If a female has sex with a male without using a condom or another barrier method, they can transmit that bacteria to their partner. This may be more common in males who are uncircumcised.


Males cannot develop BV. However, it may be possible for them to carry the bacteria that causes BV on their penis and transmit it to female sexual partners.

Experts are performing studies to see if treating male partners for BV along with female partners may prevent the recurrence of BV. Currently, there is not enough research to verify this, however.

Using condoms or other barrier methods during sexual activity may help prevent the transmission of BV.

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Medical Reviewer: Stacy A. Henigsman, DO
Last Review Date: 2023 Jan 27
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