This study examined the prevalence of gonorrhea in girls <12 years of age who presented with vaginitis and in whom sexual abuse was not suspected.


A prospective, consecutive patient series was performed in a pediatric emergency department with 90 000 visits per year and in 2 affiliated pediatric continuity clinics. All girls (Tanner I or II) between the ages of 12 months and 12 years, presenting with a chief complaint of vaginal discharge, burning, pain, or itching, were enrolled (n = 93). Patients were excluded (n = 6) if there was a history of sexual abuse. The presence or absence of vaginal discharge, vaginal erythema, or trauma was recorded. Physicians were instructed to collect cultures forNeisseria gonorrhea (GC), Chlamydia trachomatis, and bacteria/yeast. Wet prep, urinalysis, urine culture, serum rapid plasma reagin, and fungal culture were obtained at the physician's discretion.


Of the girls, 43 had a vaginal discharge on examination. Of these girls, 4 (9%) had GC, 9 (26%) had group A, B, or F streptococcus and 1 had Staphylococcus aureus. Of the girls, 44 had no discharge on examination. In this group, 3 had streptococcus infection and 2 had Candida albicans. Both children with C albicans had been treated recently with systemic antibiotics. Those girls with a vaginal discharge on examination had a microbial etiology significantly more often than did those without discharge. All of the girls with infection were Tanner I on genital examination.


The prevalence of unsuspected GC infection was high and emphasizes the importance of culturing Tanner I girls for GC when they have a vaginal discharge along with routine bacterial cultures. Testing and/or treating for C albicans should be considered when there has been recent antibiotic use. Girls with vaginal complaints but without vaginal discharge may have a bacterial infection, but such diagnoses occur less frequently than with girls who have a discharge.

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