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Common STD Incubation Periods

STD Incubation Period. The incubation period for the various STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) is a common question asked by patients in our clinics. It refers to the time between acquiring the infection and the presentation of symptoms. This is different from the window period, which refers to the period after infection in which no current available tests are sensitive enough to detect the infection. The window period for the various STIs depends on which tests are used. 

As different STIs have different incubation periods, it is not easy to answer the question when symptoms will appear after a particular risky exposure. I will list below the common STIs tested for, their incubation and window period as well as possible initial presentation. 


The following are the Common STDs and their incubating periods:

#1 STD Incubation Period – Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Early HIV infection refers to approximately 6 months after initial acquisition. It is estimated that 10 to 60 percent of all early HIV infections are asymptomatic, or without any symptoms. For early symptomatic HIV infection, the usual incubation period is around 2 to 4 weeks, although incubation periods as long as 10 months have been observed.

Acute symptomatic HIV infection present with a collection of signs and symptoms known as Acute Retroviral Syndrome (ARS). The most common findings for ARS are fever, sore throat, rash, swollen lymph nodes, body aches and pains. However, all these symptoms are not specific to acute HIV infection, hence please do not panic if you observe these symptoms after a risky encounter. See your doctor for further advice and testing

The Window period for HIV testing depends on the test that is conducted. The initially 10 days after exposure is known as the eclipse period, for which there are no tests that can pick up any infection. The earliest tests that can be done with conclusive results are the HIV ProViral DNA test or the HIV RNA PCR test, which can pick up possible acute infections 10 days after exposure.

4th Generation HIV tests will be conclusive around 28 days after exposure, while 3rd Generation HIV tests will be conclusive around 90 days after exposure. 

Anonymous HIV Testing is available at our Robertson Walk Branch. HIV Test results in 20 mins.


#2 STD Incubation Period – Syphilis

Approximately 50% of patients diagnosed with syphilis do not have any symptoms. This is because syphilis has 3 stages of infection: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Syphilis and Primary and Secondary syphilis might have symptoms that are so mild that they are ignored by the patient.

Primary syphilis presents with a painless ulcer on the genitalia, known as a chancre. The incubation period for a chancre appears to range from 3 to 90 days, with an average of around 21 days. The chancre will heal within 3 to 6 weeks even without treatment. Within weeks to a few months after the chancre appears, around 25 percent of untreated individuals will develop Secondary Syphilis.

Secondary Syphilis can present with a widespread rash, ulcers, patchy hair loss, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss and fatigue. The infection subsequently goes into a latent phase lasting for years for which there are no signs or symptoms. This is the reason why the majority of syphilis picked up on routine screening are asymptomatic.

Neurosyphilis occurs when the infection reaches the central nervous system i.e. the brain or spinal cord. Neurosyphilis can occur at any stage of infection, but tends to occur in tertiary syphilis. Therefore, neurosyphilis can occur within a few months, but could also develop after 10 to 30 years, of a syphilis infection. 

The window period for syphilis testing depends on the stage of syphilis infection. The blood tests (FTA-ABS and TPPA) will be positive around 1 to 2 weeks after chancre formation. 


#3 STD Incubation Period – Hepatitis B and C

The majority of hepatitis B and C infection are asymptomatic. It has been estimated that around 30 percent of acute hepatitis B infection and less than 25 percent of acute hepatitis C infection are symptomatic. Symptoms of acute infection tend to be very mild and may include the following: Fever, Fatigue, Nausea/vomiting, Dark Urine, Pale stools and abdominal pain. 

The incubation for acute hepatitis B infection is estimated to be around 1 month to 4 month, while the incubation period for acute hepatitis C infection is estimated to be from 2 weeks to 3 months.

The window period for both hepatitis B and C testing for antibodies is on the average about a month. It will be much shorter if alternate tests such as the Hepatitis C RNA PCR test for Hepatitis B Viral Load are used instead.


#4 STD Incubation Period – Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is caused by both Herpes Simplex Virus 1 or 2 (HSV1/2). Genital herpes infections often do not have symptoms or mild symptoms that go unrecognized. It is estimated that one third of patients with new infections do not have symptoms. The initial presentation of symptoms range from severe with painful genitalia ulcers, painful urination, painful lymph node swellings and fever. However, patients also can have mild or no symptoms as well. The initial presentation does not depends on the type of virus (HSV1 vs HSV2)

The incubation period for genital herpes is around 4 days, with a range from 2 days to 12 days.

For asymptomatic infections, HSV 1/2 Antibodies will start appearing in the serum starting from 3 weeks and majority of patients would have antibodies by 16 weeks. The window period for testing for asymptomatic patients is hence from 3 weeks to 16 weeks. For patients with symptoms of the painful genital ulcers, the test of choice is Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing (NAAT) for which a swab of the ulcer is taken and tested for HSV DNA. There is no window period for NAAT.

Rapid Herpes Testing with Next Day Results is available in all DTAP Clinic in Singapore.


#5 STD Incubation Period – Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea causes different symptoms for men and women. For women, the cervix is the most common site of infection and the common symptoms are vaginal itch and discharge. Some women also have heavier periods or bleeding in-between periods. If the infection has ascended beyond the cervix into the uterus, this is a potentially more dangerous condition known as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) for which abdomen pain and fever are common symptoms. Up to 70 percent of patients with cervical gonorrhea infection are asymptomatic. 

For men, urethritis is the most common presentation of gonorrhea infections. It is characterised by purulent urethral discharge and painful urination. In contrast to infections in women, the majority of infections in men are symptomatic. 

In women, the incubation period for genital infection is around 10 days. In men, the incubation period for symptomatic infected men is around 2 to 5 days, with 90 percent of these individuals with symptoms of urethritis by 2 weeks.  

The gold standard for testing for gonorrhea infection is NAAT, a urine sample for men and a cervical swab for women. As NAAT is able to detect low numbers of organisms with good accuracy, there is no window period for NAAT testing.

Rapid Gonorrhea & Chlamydia Testing with Next Day Results is available in all DTAP Clinic in Singapore.


#6 STD Incubation Period – Chlamydia

Chlamydia causes similar symptoms as gonorrhea in both men and women. In women, the cervix is also the most common site of infection with a proportion of patients having a urethra infection as well. However the majority of infected women, around 85 percent of patients are asymptomatic with neither signs or symptoms.

Symptoms of chlamydia infection are similar to gonorrhea in men as well, with a clear to mucoid penile discharge and painful urination. The proportion of asymptomatic infection varies as well in men, ranging from 40 to 96 percent with no symptoms. 

The incubation period for symptomatic infection ranges from 5 to 14 days after exposure for both men and women.

The gold testing for testing for chlamydia infection is NAAT as well. There is no window period for NAAT testing.

Rapid Gonorrhea & Chlamydia Testing with Next Day Results is available in all DTAP Clinic in Singapore.


Asymptomatic/Mild Infections (%)Incubation PeriodSample TypesWindow Period
HIV10 to 602 to 4 weeksBloodProviral DNA : 10 days
RNA PCR : 12 days
4th Generation Ag/Ab :28 days
3rd Generation Ag : 90 days
Syphilis503 to 90 days
Average 21 days
BloodFTA-ABS : 1 to 2 weeks after chancre
Hepatitis BMajority Asymptomatic1 month to 4 monthBloodHbsAg : 1 month
Hepatitis CMajority Asymptomatic2 weeks to 3 monthBloodAnti-HCV Ab : 1 month
Herpes702 to 12 days
Average 4 days
Blood/
Swab
HSV 1/2 IgG : 3 to 16 weeks
HSV DNA PCR : No window period
GonorrheaWomen: 70
Men: Majority Symptomatic
Women:10 days
Men: 2 to 5 days
Swab/
Urine
Gonorrhea DNA PCR: No window period
ChlamydiaMajority Asymptomatic5 to 14 daysSwab/
Urine
Chlamydia DNA PCR: No window period

If you like to speak to our doctors on your STD concern, please visit any of our clinics in Singapore & Malaysia.

You can also email us at hello@dtapclinic.com, or call any of our clinics for an appointment

Also on this site: HIV Screening, HIV Test Clinic Singapore, STD Clinic Singapore


Crabs STDs – Pubic Lice

Pediculosis pubis also known as the Crab Louse is a common insect infestation of the human genital area. As the infestation becomes more profound, it can also extend into other parts of the body including the eyelids. 

The louse is approximately 1 cm in size, which makes it visible to the naked eye. It has 6 legs, 4 of which have prominent pincer-like claws – much like a crab, which it uses to attach to its host. The louse feeds off its host by biting and drawing blood from the area. The lifespan of the louse is between 3 – 4 weeks, during which time, the female louse can lay as many as 80 eggs or nits. 

How do you get them?

Sexual transmission is the most common mode of transmission of the louse. Once the area has become infested with the louse, the patient will soon experience itchiness in the area. Prolonged infestation generally results in bluish bite marks in the skin. The louse requires a warm area and blood to thrive, hence they do not remain on inorganic surfaces such as tabletops and toilet seats for long. This means you do not usually get an infestation by touching such areas. 

The most at risk population are teenagers and young adults. 

How to get rid of Crabs STDs (Pubic Lice)?

The current treatment for Pediculosis pubis infestation is by topical treatment to the affected area. The aim of these treatments are to eradicate both the adult louse and nits. Although cure rates are high, it generally takes a few sessions of topical treatments to achieve complete eradication.

How to avoid getting Crabs STDs (Pubic Lice)?

The best way to prevent yourself from getting an infestation is to avoid contact with the louse. If you find out that your partner has an infestation, ensure that you clear the environment of any adult louse and eggs. Wash all fabrics such as curtains, bedding, towels and clothes with a hot cycle and a strong disinfectant. In the event you do find that you have an infestation see your doctor immediately so that treatment can be started early.

Next read: PARASITIC STIS – SCABIES

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crabs stds

Also on this site: hiv screening

Common Medical Conditions That Are Asymptomatic

Signs and Symptoms are technical terms to describe the extent of disease in a patient. A sign is an effect of the disease that can be observed by another person or elicited through certain manoeuvres while a symptom is an effect that is experienced only by the patient. 

What does being asymptomatic mean?

Being “asymptomatic” is when the patient does have the disease but does not experience any effects of the disease. In this article, we will be discussing 5 diseases where patients are usually asymptomatic in the early stages of the disease but as the disease progresses, it adds an increased burden on the body leading to more pronounced signs and symptoms.

The 5 diseases were selected because while there is no way for patients to know if they have the disease early on due to the lack of symptoms these diseases can be easily detected during health screening with your General Practitioner. Therefore, we hope to highlight the importance of your health screening in allowing your doctor to detect these diseases early and prevent the disease from progressing to a more severe state.

So just before you brush off that health screening appointment because “I feel OK” , have a read to see the benefits or early detection and treatment.


5 Diseases where patients are asymptomatic

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

What it is?

HIV infection is a disease in which the virus attacks specific cells (CD4) in the immune system and uses the cells to create more copies of the virus, killing the host cells in the process. In the early stages of HIV, the rate of CD 4 cell production can still cope with the loss from the viral infection, therefore patients are mostly asymptomatic.

Over time as the virus replication picks up pace, the CD 4 cell numbers dwindle and the immune system becomes less effective in responding to environmental insults such as bacterial or fungal infections. Major risk factors for HIV infection include, IV drug use, unprotected casual sex and anal intercourse.

How do you test for it?

Point of Care testing can be done at most clinics in Singapore, this involves taking a sample of blood from a finger prick and placing it into a test kit. Currently, the earliest you can be tested for HIV is 30 days after infection. Early treatment of HIV prevents the virus from replicating and thus prevents the disease from worsening and progressing to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
HIV Testing Singapore
Anonymous HIV Testing Singapore

Chlamydia

What it is?

Chlamydia is a common bacterial infection in both Men and Women. Infection is usually found in the genital tract but also in the rectum, throat and even eyes. Up to 70% of women and 50% of men are asymptomatic. Left untreated, the bacteria can replicate further to eventually lead to an inflammatory state in the pelvis. This results in severe discomfort and particularly in women the risk of infertility is especially raised if chlamydia is untreated.

How do you test for it?

Chalmydia Rapid testing can be carried out to detect the presence of Chalmydia within 24 hours. A sample is taken from the region, a vaginal swab for women and a urine sample for men, and a Polymerase Chain Reaction is used to detect any chlamydial genetic material. Treatment of chlamydia can be as simple as a single dose of antibiotics if detected at an early stage.
Rapid STD Testing Singapore

Chronic Illnesses

High cholesterol

What it is?

Cholesterol can be thought of in 2 forms, a high density form (HDL) and a low density form (LDL). HDL lowers the total cholesterol in the body while LDL increases it. An increase in cholesterol and triglycerides (both from fatty foods) results in plaques developing within your blood vessels (Atherosclerosis). As the plaques increase in size, blood flow to your vital organs like your heart and brain are compromised thus increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

How do you test for it?

A blood test usually done at your health screening enables your doctor to determine the cholesterol levels in your body. Not all elevated cholesterol has to be treated with  medications because changes in diet and lifestyle can also lower cholesterol in some cases. 

Hypertension

What it is?

Hypertension is when your blood pressure is persistently elevated, the normal blood pressure should be below 140 systolic and 90 diastolic. There are myriad of causes for elevated blood pressure including, high salt intake, stress or kidney disease.

However, many people have Essential hypertension, which is when the blood pressure is found to be elevated for no particular cause. Even though the cause may not be determined in most cases of hypertension, patients with an elevated blood pressure have a higher risk of strokes. This is because, the increased pressure in the blood adds additional strain to the blood vessels, eventually, the blood vessels become weaker and are more likely to break, resulting in a stroke.

How do you test for it?

The diagnosis of hypertension in an asymptomatic patient involves a Blood Pressure diary where the patient measures her blood pressure at the start and end of the day for 2 weeks. A persistently elevated blood pressure may prompt the doctor to start treatment, however there are also non-pharmacological means of lowering blood pressure.

Diabetes

What it is?

Diabetes, in particular Type 2 Diabetes, is a condition where the body is unable to regulate carbohydrate metabolism. This results in wide spread effects on the patient because sugar derived from carbohydrate metabolism is essential to many cellular activities in the body. Although patients are mostly asymptomatic in the early stages of the disease, patients can eventually have a variety of pathologies as the disease progresses such as loss of sensation in the hands and feet, poor wound healing, reduced immunity and even blindness.

How do you test for it?

Testing for diabetes also involves a blood test to measure the sugar levels in a fasting state to gauge the current level of sugar metabolism in your body and the Haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) which is a gauge of the long term extent of sugar metabolism in your body. Depending on the extent of your disease, treatment of diabetes can range of lifestyle modification to injectable medications.


Having a disease in its early stages sometimes means that you still feel “fine” and not experience any symptoms. However, if left untreated, these diseases can progress and lead to severe complications in your health. Getting checked regularly is essential for detecting disease in the asymptomatic phase and treating it early. This prevents the disease from progressing to a more severe state and allows us to lead better, healthier lives. Speak to your doctor today!


Other Asymptomatic Medical Conditions:

Also on this site: Wart Removal Singapore, STD Check Singapore

Neurosyphillis

Syphilis is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Treponema Pallidum. It is a systemic infection with a multitude of signs and symptoms depending on the stage of the infection. As such, syphilis is also known as “the Great Imitator” because the clinical presentation may appear similar to many other diseases.

There are four stages of infection: 

  1. Primary syphilis – painless ulcer (or chancre) at the site of infection
  2. Secondary syphilis – manifestations that include, but are not limited to, skin rash, mucocutaneous lesions, and lymph node swelling
  3. Latent syphilis – this stage can last for a number of years with few or no symptoms
  4. Tertiary syphilis  – gummatous lesions (soft, non-cancerous growths), neurological problems, or cardiac symptoms

In this article, we will focus on neurosyphilis. You can learn more about syphilis as an overall topic in a previous article:



What is Neurosyphilis?

Neurosyphilis occurs when the infection reaches the central nervous system i.e. the brain or spinal cord. Neurosyphilis can occur at any stage of infection, but tends to occur in tertiary syphilis. Therefore, neurosyphilis can occur within a few months, but could also develop after 10 to 30 years, of a syphilis infection. 

There are four different forms of neurosyphilis:

  1. Asymptomatic (most common form)
  2. Meningovascular
  3. General paresis (muscle weakness)
  4. Tabes dorsalis (slow degeneration of the neural tracts of the spinal cord)

Asymptomatic neurosyphilis occurs before symptomatic neurosyphilis. Early neurosyphilis affects the blood vessels and meninges (membranous coverings of the brain and spinal cord) whereas late neurosyphilis affects the brain and spinal cord itself.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms vary widely depending on the form of neurosyphilis, including:

  • Stroke
  • Changes in personality
  • Dementia, mania, or paranoia 
  • Ataxia (loss of coordination of muscle movements, eg. leading to gait abnormality)
  • Ophthalmic symptoms (eg. blurred vision, reduced color perception)
  • Urinary symptoms (eg. bladder incontinence)
  • Headache
  • Giddiness
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures 
  • Hyporeflexia 
  • Sensory impairment 

Risk Factors

The risk factors include: 

  • High risk sexual behaviour from unprotected sex and multiple sexual partners
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Recreational drug use

Diagnosis

Syphilis is diagnosed either via blood tests or direct visual inspection using dark field microscopy. In practice, blood tests are more commonly used as they are easier to perform.

To diagnose neurosyphilis specifically, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is a fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, is obtained via lumbar puncture and the Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) test is performed on the CSF. 

Other laboratory investigations that may be performed include: cerebral angiogram, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain, brain stem or spinal cord.

Treatment

Syphilis is treated with intramuscular injection of the antibiotic benzathine benzylpenicillin. Early syphilis is treated with a single dose whereas late syphilis is treated with a once-weekly dose for 3 weeks. 

For neurosyphilis, however, the treatment course is different as penicillin penetrates the central nervous system poorly. Instead, the treatment requires intravenous penicillin every 4 hours for 10 to 14 days.

Generally, follow-up blood tests are performed at 3, 6, 12, 24, and 36 months to ensure the infection has fully resolved. Follow-up lumbar punctures for CSF analysis are performed every 6 months. 

Prevention

Neurosyphilis can be prevented with the following measures:

  • Safe sex practice, namely correct and consistent condom usage
  • Avoiding high risk sexual behaviour. Aside from abstaining from sexual contact, the surest way of avoiding STIs is to be in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is free of STIs
  • Regular STI screening and if syphilis has been detected, to receive early and prompt treatment
  • In the case of an individual diagnosed with a syphilis infection, prompt partner notification and treatment helps to reduce the risk of undetected syphilis

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Oral Gonorrhea / Throat Gonorrhea – What do you need to know

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by a bacterium known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It thrives in warm and moist areas like the genital tracts, mouth and anus.

Gonorrhoea is a common STD in Singapore. MOH reports an incidence rate of 33.4 per 100,000 population in 2016.

What are the symptoms of Gonorrhea infection?

In men, up to 60% of patients with urogenital Gonorrhea might not have any symptoms (asymptomatic). Symptoms of urogenital Gonorrhea in male may include:

  • Discomfort, itchy along the urinary tract
  • Painful urination
  • Penile discharge
  • Testicular Pain (Epididymitis)

In women, up to 70% of patients with urogenital Gonorrhea might not have any symptoms (asymptomatic).

Symptoms of urogenital gonorrhea in female may include:

  • Vaginal itch, discharge or bleeding
  • Painful urination
  • Abdominal/Pelvic Pain
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

What are the complications of Gonorrhea infection?

Untreated Gonorrhea infections for females can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease with abdominal pain and abnormal vaginal bleeding. It can cause infertility if the sexual organs are scarred by the infection. Gonorrhea can also lead to multiple complications during pregnancy for the infected mother and can even be passed on to her baby.

For men, untreated Gonorrhea infection can result in scarring of the urinary tract and urinary obstruction. Testicular/Epididymal infection can also cause infertility if left untreated.

What is Oral/Throat Gonorrhea and how is it transmitted?

Oral/Throat Gonorrhea is the infection of the pharynx by the same bacterium and it is commonly transmitted through oral sex. It is an oral STD.

How common is Oral/Throat Gonorrhea and what are the symptoms?

A recent study in 2016 has estimated the prevalence of throat Gonorrhea infection to be as high as 30% for straight woman, 15.5% for straight men and 17% for homosexual men.

The most common presentation of throat Gonorrhea is a sore throat. Some patients may have swollen neck lymph nodes. However, the majority of patients do not present with any symptoms at all.

Oral ulcers are not a presentation of throat Gonorrhea. If oral/peri-oral ulcers are present, other STDs such as Herpes and Syphilis need to be considered.

I do not practice oral sex. Why should I be screened for Throat Gonorrhea?

Throat Gonorrhea transmission can occur even in the absence of reported oral sex.

Even though the majority of throat gonorrhea are asymptomatic, in 0.5% to 3% of infected patients the bacterium can penetrate the mucosae and enter the bloodstream, leading to a widespread infection. This blood-borne invasion (Disseminated Gonococcal Infection) can lead to to a variety of dangerous conditions including:

  • Multiple joint inflammation
  • Tendon Sheath inflammation
  • Skin dermatitis
  • Joint Infections

Hence, even in the absence of oral sex or symptoms, patients with new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner with a diagnosed STD should go for STD screening.

How is Gonorrhea screening performed?

Gonorrhea Testing. NAAT (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) is routinely performed to detect N.gonorrhoeae. The doctor will swab the suspected area of infection (throat/anus/vagina) or request a urine sample for diagnosis of gonorrhea infection. It has been shown to be superior to traditional methods of culturing the bacteria with far more rapid results.

How is Gonorrhea treated and how can I prevent Gonorrhea infection?

Gonorrhea is treated with a single antibiotic injection and a course of oral antibiotics.

Gonorrhea transmission can be prevented by observing safe sexual practices. This includes the use of barrier protections like condoms or dental dams, cutting down the number of sexual partners as well as ensuring regular STD screening for both the patient and their sexual partners.

Next read: WHAT IS ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT GONORRHEA OR SUPER GONORRHEA?


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10 things you didn’t know about this STD: Mycoplasma Genitalium

Mycoplasma Genitalium is a common STI (sexually transmitted infection). It can be transmitted by different forms of sexual contact including vaginal, anal and oral intercourse. The symptoms experienced can include painful urination, penile/vaginal discharge, and, specifically in women; pain during sex, bleeding after sex, inter-menstrual bleeding, and lower pelvic pains.

Mycoplasma Genitalium is not as well known as Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea. The key reason for this, is the difficulty in testing for the infection and also a lack of awareness about the condition.


Here are 10 interesting things that you didn’t know about Mycoplasma Genitalium

1. Mycoplasma Genitalium was first identified in the 1980s

The bacteria was first isolated in the urogenital tract of humans in 1981, and was recognised as a new species of Mycoplasma in 1983. As it is still relatively recent that Mycoplasma Genitalium was identified, there is lack of sufficient data and research, and perhaps more of the condition that we do not yet know about.


2. Mycoplasma Genitalium is one of the smallest free living microorganisms capable of self-replication

The Mycoplasma species are the smallest bacterial cells yet discovered, with sizes ranging from 0.2 to 0.7 micrometres. In fact, Mycoplasma Genitalium is too small to be visible under a light microscope, and the first detailed study of its structure was conducted under a transmission electron microscope (TEM). 

3. Mycoplasma Genitalium is one out of the 15 (known so far) named Mycoplasma species of the human origin

Hundreds of Mycoplasma species are known to infect animals and plants. Of these, about 15 are pathogenic in humans. Mycoplasma Genitalium was the 12th to be identified.

4. Mycoplasma Genitalium is more common than Gonorrhoea and is the second most prevalent STI after Chlamydia

Since its discovery around 30 years ago, Mycoplasma Genitalium is now recognized as an important cause of male urethritis. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that it is more common than Gonorrhoea but less common than Chlamydia, and is responsible for approximately 15%–20% of non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU), 20%–25% of non-chlamydial NGU, and approximately 30% of persistent or recurrent urethritis.

5. It is possible to have Mycoplasma Genitalium and not know it, and there is a high chance that your partner is also infected

Infection with Mycoplasma Genitalium can cause the symptoms as mentioned earlier, but can also be asymptomatic. Studies have shown that in heterosexual couples where the male partner was tested positive, up to 30% of the female partners were positive for the bacteria. If the female was first tested positive, up to 50% of their male partners tested positive as well. In men who have sex with men, up to 40% of their partners tested positive for the bacteria in the rectum. This points to the fact that if a person is tested positive for the bacteria there is a good chance that their partner is also infected.

6. Mycoplasma Genitalium, like Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea, can lead to more serious complications with long term health consequences

Data suggests that Mycoplasma Genitalium can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in females, as the bacteria is found in the cervix and/or endometrium of women with PID more often than in women without PID. Women with tubal factor infertility are more likely to have antibodies to Mycoplasma Genitalium than fertile women, suggesting that this organism might cause female infertility. Two studies have shown that infection with Mycoplasma Genitalium is associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery in pregnant women.

It remains unknown whether Mycoplasma Genitalium can cause male infertility. However, the organism has been detected in men with epididymitis in a limited number of cases.

7. Mycoplasma Genitalium is a slow growing bacteria; this leads to diagnostic challenges

Mycoplasma Genitalium is a fastidious, slow-growing organism. This makes detection and subsequent isolation of the bacteria extremely difficult. Culture can take up to 6 months, and only a few laboratories in the world are able to recover clinical isolates.

Therefore, the preferred method of testing is by Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT), typically using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). NAAT detects genetic materials (DNA or RNA) rather than antigens or antibodies, and is highly accurate. Testing can be done on urine, urethral, vaginal, and cervical swabs and endometrial biopsy. However, to date there is no diagnostic test for Mycoplasma Genitalium that has been approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

8. Mycoplasma Genitalium does not have a cell wall

The Mycoplasma Genitalium bacteria lacks a cell wall, which makes treatment of the infection more difficult as certain classes of antibiotics that work by targeting bacterial cell walls are ineffective against this organism.

9. You can get reinfected with Mycoplasma Genitalium even after you have been treated for it 

Much like many other STIs, it is possible to get reinfected with Mycoplasma Genitalium even after one has been successfully treated for it. Therefore, safe sexual practices including using barrier protection, reducing your number of sexual partners and knowing your partners’ infection status is important in keeping yourself safe and healthy.

10. It is possible for vertical transmission of Mycoplasma Genitalium to occur?

Although uncommon, it is possible for vertical transmission of Mycoplasma Genitalium from mother to baby to occur, as previously reported in one case. 

Next read: MYCOPLASMA GENITALIUM (MG) – STD SCREENING, TESTING & TREATMENT


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ZIKA IS AN STD!! – Battling the STD Stigma

The Zika virus gained notoriety in Brazil when it was blamed for causing a spate of birth defects known as microcephaly. Babies born with microcephaly had abnormally small heads and often also suffered concurrent problems with brain development. Some children born to Zika infected mothers had normal sized heads but their heads would fail to develop normally. These are obviously horrible consequences for both the mother and child. 


Zika is a virus that is spread by mosquitoes very much like Dengue. However, it was soon discovered that Zika was also sexually transmitted. And that consistent and correct use of condoms protected pregnant women from the Zika virus and consequently their unborn children to the devastating effects of Congenital Zika Syndrome.  

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But wait a minute? Does that mean Zika is an STD? Technically it seems to fit. STD is an acronym for Sexually Transmitted Disease. Zika is a disease that is sexually transmitted. But it is predominantly transmitted via the bite from an infected mosquito. So is it an STD? If Zika is an STD then is raises other uncomfortable questions like: if a person catches chickenpox from his/her partner because they had sex, is chickenpox then an STD too? Or even the common Flu, which is spread as an airborne virus, can also easily be caught via sexual intercourse. So the common Flu is an STD!


I’ve had this discussion many times with my patients when they have been diagnosed with an infection and they ask me “is it an STD?” Sometimes, this is rather easy to answer. If they have, for example, an infection of Gonorrhoea of the penis, one can be confident to say that they caught it from a sexual contact. But at times, things get murky. A good example is an infection with Ureaplasma Urealyticum. We know this tiny bacteria can be sexually transmitted. We also know that it can seem to appear out of nowhere in mutually monogamous couples. We also know that it can be just a commensal and not a disease causing pathogen. So when a patient with an infection of his urinary tract caused by Ureaplasma asks me “is this an STD?” I am unable to give a direct black and white answer. 


The same goes for what I would describe as the most feared STD by many, and that is HIV. For a fact, the commonest way that HIV is transmitted is via sexual contact. However, we also know for a fact that HIV can be transmitted by sharing needles, contaminated surgical instruments, transfusion of contaminated blood and transplant of contaminated organs. Albeit the last 2 hardly happens anymore due to increased awareness, better infection screening protocols and technology advancement. But let’s be honest, if and when we find out someone is infected with HIV, getting injured by surgical instruments is not likely the first reason to pop into our heads.


And therein lies the issue. Answering the question “is this an STD?” does not in any way contribute to the clinical management of the disease except perhaps for contact tracing. For partner protection, the same advice will be given if the disease can be transmitted sexually regardless of whether or not it is called an “STD”. The issue, I believe, is stigma. To be labelled as having an “STD” is to be labelled as a moral or sexual deviant. But should this really be the case? Infections are caused by microorganisms invading our bodies and using our resources to make more of themselves. Drawing on resources around them to reproduce is hardcoded into the genetic material of all living things, humans being the best and worst examples. Microorganisms do not care how they are transmitted or where they infect as long as the environment they are in supports their reproduction. Microorganisms do not care about our textbooks and whether or not we call them STDs.


Consequently, some infections although predominantly transmitted by sex, can also be transmitted by other means. And some that can easily be caught via sex, are for some reason not given the label “STD”. I do hope we can eventually drop this label and treat infections for what they are – infections. Treat the patient, prevent reinfection, protect partners. Labels are useless. 

Next read: WHAT IS ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT GONORRHEA OR SUPER GONORRHEA?

Speak to your doctor for more information or if you have any questions regarding Dengue Rapid Testing or other Dengue related topics: Dengue in the era of COVID, Dengue Fever Symptoms? Dengue Fever What You Need to Know, Why the recent resurgence in Dengue Fever?, ZIKA IS AN STD!! – Battling the STD Stigma


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Rectal Douching and Associated Infection Risks

Similar to vaginal douching, rectal douching or anal douching is not something that many people talk about it polite circles. It is commonly practiced by Men-Who-Have-Sex-With-Men (MSM) who receive anal sex. Let’s face it, generally we don’t want our loved ones to have to deal with our faeces while having anal sex. However there is a growing concern about the practice of performing anal douching and its associated risk of STI including HIV infection.
Other Read: Anal Pap Smear for Anal Cancer.
 

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A recently published systematic review (essentially this means that the study involves gathering all published studies on a subject and compiling the findings together) in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections (May 2019), there is evidence to suggest that anal douching can potentially increase the risk of STI and HIV infection among MSM. In the systematic review, it included a total of 28 studies looking at anal douching and the risk of STI/ HIV in MSM population around the world (46% from US, 35% from Europe and the rest from South America, Asia and Africa). 
Also Read: STD Risk From Receptive Unprotected Anal Sex In Men
 


The findings show that men who perform anal douching compared to those who don’t have a 2.8 times higher risk of HIV and close to 2.5 times higher risk of any other types of STIs (Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HPV). With respect to specific STIs, the study found that anal douching increases the risk of chlamydia and gonorrhoea by up to 3.25 times and 3.29 times for Hepatitis B Virus and Hepatitis C Virus.
It is theorised that possible reasons for the association of anal douching with increased risk of STIs and HIV may be due to:

  1. Water and/ or soap causes the delicate lining of the rectum and intestines to become damaged.
  2. Removal of normal flora (bacteria that normally is found in the rectum) due to the action of flushing
  3. Risk of transmission of STIs and HIV through the sharing of douching devices much sharing of needles for IVDU. 

 


The authors also noted that further studies will be needed to further elucidate this association between anal douching and STIs and HIV infection.
Speak to your doctor if you have any questions regarding the associated infection risks from rectal douching or anal douching.
 


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Chancroid Symptoms & Treatment

What is Chancroid?

Chancroid is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi. It is a highly contagious but curable disease. 
Chancroid was once highly prevalent worldwide, but thanks to increased social awareness leading to better sexual practices, along with improved diagnosis and treatment options, it is nowadays rarely seen in industrialized countries. However, it still occurs frequently in underdeveloped areas, including certain parts of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. It is most prevalent in lower socioeconomic groups, and is associated with commercial sex workers.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms typically begin 4 to 10 days after sexual exposure. Patients usually develop a small, red pustule on the genitals that breaks down within a day or two to form a painful, soft ulcer with irregular borders.
About half of infected males develop a solitary ulcer whereas women usually develop 4 or more ulcers. In males, the ulcer can be located anywhere on the genitals, including the penis and scrotum. In females, the ulcers can occur on the labia, between the labia and anus, and along the inner thigh. 
Lymph node swelling in the groin may accompany shortly thereafter, and these may break through the skin and form large draining abscesses (collections of pus). These swollen lymph nodes and abscesses are referred to as buboes. With lymph node involvement, fever, chills and malaise (general feeling of illness) may also develop.
Other symptoms of Chancroid include rectal bleeding, pain with bowel movements, vaginal discharge, painful urination (women) and pain during sexual intercourse (women).

Is Chancroid associated with other subtypes of genital ulcer diseases that include other STDs, such as HSV-2, syphilis, and LGV?

Chancroid is one of the causes of genital ulcer diseases, which includes Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Type 2, Syphilis and Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV). There is no direct association, but any form of STD can increase your risk of contracting another STD, including Chancroid.
Genital ulcer diseases are concerning as their presence greatly increases the risk of HIV transmission, with a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that the presence of genital ulcer diseases increases the risk of HIV transmission by 10%-50% in women and 50%-300% in men.

How do I test for Chancroid?

Currently there is no laboratory test that is able to immediately confirm the diagnosis of Chancroid. Haemophilus ducreyi can be isolated on a special culture media, but this is not readily available in many centres. Moreover, this technique has a sensitivity of <80%.
Diagnosis therefore is made based on clinical judgement. According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a probable diagnosis can be made if: 

  1. There is presence of one or more painful genital ulcers
  2. The presentation and appearance of the genital ulcers and, if present, enlarged groin lymph nodes are typical for Chancroid
  3. There is no evidence of syphilis infection on testing of the ulcer, or from blood test performed at least 7 days after onset of ulcers
  4. Swab testing of the ulcer for Herpes Simplex Virus is negative

What is the treatment for Chancroid?

Appropriate treatment of Chancroid cures the infection, reduces the complications, and prevents transmission. Treatment should be started as soon as a diagnosis of Chancroid is suspected due to the lack of appropriate fast and accurate laboratory testing.
The key treatment for Chancroid involves the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics may also help decrease the chance of scarring as the ulcer heals. Your doctor will choose the appropriate antibiotic for you. 
If buboes are present, they should be drained with either needle aspiration or surgery, in order to reduce swelling and pain. Sexual partners of patients with Chancroid should be informed to get examined and treated regardless of whether they have symptoms or not, if there was sexual contact within 10 days preceding the onset of symptoms.
If you would like to find out more about Chancroid, come down to any of our clinics for a consultation.
Stay safe, stay healthy.


Learn More about Other STDs & Other STD Symptoms


Trichomoniasis in Men and Women – Sexually Transmitted Infection

What is Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis (also known as “trich”)  is a very common sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite (a single-celled protozoan organism) called Trichomonas vaginalis. The US Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) estimates that about 3.7million people in the US have this infection.
Both men and women can be infected with trichomoniasis, although it is more common amongst women.

Only 1/3 of infected individuals actually develop symptoms and asymptomatic individuals can still transmit the infection to their sexual partners.

How is Trichomoniasis Transmitted?

Trichomoniasis is transmitted through sexual intercourse. The parasite commonly resides in the urethra in men (the urine tract), and the lower genital tract (including the urethra, vaginal canal and cervix) in women. Transmission occurs with genital to genital sexual contact. Sex toys may potentially be a mode of transmission if shared. The transmission does not occur through oral intercourse.
DidYouKnow:
Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Trichomoniasis are all common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that can cause infections in the genitals, rectum and throat. These diseases are easily spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who is infected with the disease. See: Gonorrhea Symptoms 

What are the Symptoms of Trichomoniasis?

In men, the symptoms of trichomoniasis may include:

  • Discomfort, itching or an irritation along the urine tract
  • Dysuria (pain) or discomfort when passing urine
  • Penile discharge
  • Discomfort or pain during or after ejaculation

In women, the symptoms of trichomoniasis may include:

Again, it is crucial to remember that less than half of infected individuals develop symptoms. As with many other STDs, feeling well does not rule out the possibility of trichomoniasis.


Learn More about Other STDs & Other STD Symptoms


What are the Possible Complications of Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis infection in women has been shown to increase the risk of acquiring as well as transmitting HIV to partners.
In pregnancy, trichomoniasis increases the risk of preterm labour in pregnancy (going into early labour before the baby is due) and of the infant being of low birth weight.

Sexually Transmitted Infections – Video

How is Trichomoniasis Diagnosed?

In women, trichomoniasis can be diagnosed with a vaginal swab test or a urine test. In men, testing can be done with a urine sample, semen sample or urethral swab. Trichomoniasis is more easily diagnosed in women than in men. See: STD Screening
Test methods that involve nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT) are highly accurate, while other methods like a culture (waiting for the parasite to grow on a culture medium) may potentially yield false negatives.

How is Trichomoniasis Treated?

Trichomoniasis is treated with oral antibiotics – either metronidazole or tinidazole. Both sexual partners should be treated so as to minimise the risk of the infection recurring.

How Can I Reduce My Risk of Getting Trichomoniasis?

Observing safe sexual practices can help reduce your risk of trichomoniasis – this includes the proper and regular use of condoms, reducing your number of sexual partners as well as ensuring both you and your partner get tested regularly for STDs, regardless of whether you have symptoms or not.
If you would like to find out more about Trichomoniasis Testing and Treatment, come down to any of our clinics for a consultation.
Also see: std test singapore