Can Bactrim Be Used to Treat Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a vaginal infection caused by several possible types of bacteria. Although antibiotics can treat this infection, not every antibiotic is a good fit.

There are several options for treating bacterial vaginosis, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts two at the top of the list.

This article will cover why Bactrim may not be the best fit for treating BV and what it can treat instead.

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Is Bactrim an Effective Treatment for BV?

There are around 100 different types of antibiotics, but there are millions of species of bacteria—and not all are a good match for one another.

Bactrim is an antibiotic that combines sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim. These are antibiotics from the sulfonamide class and the folate synthesis inhibitor class, respectively. This medication is effective in fighting a number of bacterial infections, but bacterial vaginosis is not one of them.

Is Using Bactrim for BV Dangerous?

Antibiotics should only treat the bacterial infections they are designed to treat. Using antibiotics like Bactrim for infections they are not indicated to treat can increase your risk of developing side effects and even contribute to antibiotic resistance.

You should only take antibiotics with a prescription from your healthcare provider and for the infection it was intended to treat.

Bactrim Uses

Bactrim usually treats bacterial infections that include:

Side Effects

Many antibiotics can cause side effects, but Bactrim in particular can cause:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tongue pain or swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Rash
  • Sensitivity to light (photosensitivity)

In some cases, the following severe reactions can also occur:

BV Treatment Options

Metronidazole and clindamycin are the preferred antibiotics for treating bacterial vaginosis. according to the CDC.

The full list of treatment options includes:

  • 500 mg metronidazole by mouth, twice a day for seven days
  • 0.75% metronidazole gel inserted into the vagina, once a day for five days
  • 2% clindamycin cream inserted into the vagina, once a day at bedtime for seven days

Though these are the top choices for treating BV, the CDC also offers the following alternative regimens:

  • 300 mg clindamycin by mouth, twice a day for seven days
  • 100 mg clindamycin inserted into the vagina, once a day at bedtime for three days
  • 2 grams secnidazole granules by mouth in a single dose
  • 2 grams tinidazole by mouth, once a day for two days
  • 1 gram tinidazole by mouth, once a day for five days

What to Consider

Bactrim is very effective at treating certain bacterial infections but is not intended to treat bacterial vaginosis.

Talk to your healthcare provider about using the right antibiotic for the right infection to avoid complications, adverse effects, and resistance to antibiotics.

Summary

Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection that affects the vagina and is treated with antibiotics. Metronidazole and clindamycin are the preferred choices. There are other options, too, but Bactrim is not one of them.

A Word From Verywell

Antibiotics can treat a wide variety of infections, but you should never take antibiotics for anything other than their intended purpose. Certain antibiotics treat certain infections, and what works for one condition may not work for another.

When it comes to bacterial vaginosis, Bactrim is not one of the recommended antibiotics. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think you have bacterial vaginosis and ask what treatment is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What antibiotics can clear up BV?

    Metronidazole and clindamycin are the preferred antibiotics for treating bacterial vaginosis.

  • Is Bactrim good for bacterial infections?

    Bactrim can treat a variety of bacterial infections including certain types of pneumonia and urinary tract infections. It is not, however, recommended for treating bacterial vaginosis.

  • Is Flagyl the same as Bactrim?

    Flagyl is a brand name for metronidazole, and Bactrim is the brand name for a combined formula of sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim. These are all antibiotic medications, but they are all from different classes and are meant to treat different types of bacteria.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bacterial vaginosis.

  2. Andrei S, Droc G, Stefan G. FDA approved antibacterial drugs: 2018-2019. Discoveries (Craiova). December 2019;7(4):e102. doi:10.15190/d.2019.15

  3. Amann R, Rosselló-Móra R. After all, only millions? mBio.7(40). doi:10.1128/mBio.00999-16

  4. ClinicalInfoHIV.gov. Drug Database: Sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim.

  5. Kemnic TR, Coleman M. Trimethoprim sulfamethoxazole. StatPearls.

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
 Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.