APMIS : acta pathologica, microbiologica, et immunologica Scandinavica

Trimethylamine and trimethylamine oxide levels in normal women and women with bacterial vaginosis reflect a local metabolism in vaginal secretion as compared to urine.

PMID 16086821


The smell of rotten fish is one of the characteristics of bacterial vaginosis (BV), and is due to trimethylamine (TMA). Trimethylamine can be found in human urine, although most of it occurs as the nonvolatile oxide (TMAO) form. The fraction TMA/TMAO can be expected to be the same in different body fluids if no local production of TMA occurs. In women with BV, TMAO in the vaginal fluid is expected to be chemically reduced by the local bacterial flora to the much more odorous TMA. We have therefore studied the local vaginal production of TMA in vaginal secretion compared to the general TMA-TMAO metabolism that was measured in urine using gas chromatography. Both vaginal fluid and random urine samples were collected from women, with and without BV, attending a Swedish clinic for sexually transmitted diseases, and these samples were analyzed for TMA and TMAO. The results show that a local production of TMA occurs in the vagina that is not part of the general metabolism of TMA-TMAO.