Call to Arms for STD Parasite Testing

Trichomonas vaginalis quite prevalent in women over 40

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A sexually transmitted parasite, which can cause inflammatory illnesses and premature births, is finding a seemingly unlikely home in women over 40 years old.

A Johns Hopkins infectious disease expert is calling on all sexually active women over 40 to test for the parasite trichomonas vaginalis as this age group is twice as likely to carry the parasite.

"Ask your OB/GYN if you should be tested for trichomonas vaginalis."

Senior study investigator Charlotte Gaydos, M.S., Dr.P.H. at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine observes that when people think about sexually-transmitted diseases, young people come to mind. However, her study results indicate that trichomonas infects all age groups of women, but are found more prevalently in women older than 40.

Because trichomonas infections are easily treatable with antibiotics, Gaydos recommends older women get screened by their family practitioners and ob-gyns during routine check-ups.

This will prevent the spread of the parasite as most people who are infected remain asymptomatic. If the parasite isn't treated, though, it can lead to easy co-infection of HIV, inflammation of the vagina, urethra and cervic. Also, those infected with trichomonas may also develop pelvic inflammatory disease.

If the infected woman is pregnant, the infection may cause premature labor or result in a baby born with substandard weight.

Gaydos reports what really is happening with trichomonas, particularly in older women, is a complete lack of testing which causes the infection to persist and eventually leads the woman open to developing the other conditions mentioned.

If the parasite is tested for, public health officials will be able to track the disease as well as develop better therapies to prevent infections.

This survey has Gaydos imploring for testing of women in prison so they can be diagnosed and treated. Older women and black women seem particularly more likely to have the infection.

 This study included samples from 7,593 U.S. women in 28 different states between the ages of 18 and 89. Women who were 50 and older had the highest trichomonas infection rate (13 percent). Women in their 40s had the next highest rate (11 percent).

This study will be presented July 12 at the annual meeting of the International Society for STD Research, in Quebec City, Canada.

"Results are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal."

Embargoed for release: 12-Jul-2011 07:00 ET
(12-Jul-2011 11:00 GMT)

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 7, 2011
Last Updated:
July 11, 2011