The most common curable STI
Trichomonas vaginalis is a very common sexually transmitted infection, causing 143 million cases each year (WHO). It is the only known protozoan parasite that infects the genital tract, and it is the most common non-viral sexually transmitted disease in the world.
The organism is transmitted through sexual contact as well as mother to child at birth (CDC). During infection T. vaginalis adheres to the epithelial cells of the urogenital tract where it activates metabolic pathways causing an inflammatory response within the host tissue. This causes irritation and sometimes frothy, purulent discharge from the urethra.
In addition to these disconcerting symptoms, the parasite increases the risk of acquiring and shedding HIV, curtailing worldwide efforts to reduce STIs. Paradoxically, TV is the most common curable STI worldwide, however the majority of patients don’t seek treatment because they are unaware of their infection status. Up to 70% of patients are asymptomatic, making it very difficult to diagnose and treat the condition. The parasite’s asymptomatic nature also contributes to a significant amount of silent transmission between partners, increasing the burden of disease immensely. With limited worldwide surveillance and increasing incidence, TV is a rapidly growing health concern.
Complex challenges associated with TV
Trichomonas vaginalis is a dangerous parasite which has the potential to cause severe side effects and complications if left untreated. In women the infection can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, urethritis, infertility, as well as complications for newborns such as postabortal infection, low birth weight, and preterm delivery. In men the infection may cause painful urethritis and chronic prostatitis. These harmful sequelae become increasingly difficult to treat as they incur permanent damage to the body.
Clinical detection methods and diagnostic tools help to impede these unfortunate outcomes. They play a critical role in not only discovering infection status, but in helping to monitor and prevent these harmful long-term consequences through surveillance and screening.
Moving into the future
Due to the asymptomatic nature of TV, rapid PCR diagnostic tools are both the easiest and most reliable method to detect the parasite. These efficient laboratory diagnostic mechanisms are critical in controlling the infection and studying the pathogenesis of disease. About 1 in 5 people get infected again within 3 months after receiving treatment for TV, therefore management of infection and continued screening is critical in reducing silent spread of infection and thus decreasing disease prevalence.
The Roche trichomonas vaginalis assay is a highly sensitive and specific test that can be performed on self-collected or clinician-collected samples. With this patients can be delivered accurate and reliable results to dictate their next steps in managing this STI.