Overwhelming Amount of New cases of Trichomoniasis
MI Science Department Staff
Trichomoniasis is known to be a common non-viral sexually transmitted infection.1 The term “non-viral infection” may initially present a sense of relief, confirming that a trichomoniasis infection can be cured with antibiotics.1 But this sense of relief may cause some to take the infection lightly and blind them to the possible severity of the infection.
In 2016, the World Health Organization reported that there were 156 million new cases of trichomoniasis.2 This is an alarming statistic for a common, curable sexually transmitted infection. The fact that trichomoniasis is curable hasn’t proved to be a long-standing solution for the continued presence of the infection among people worldwide. Over time, the discussion of the infection has fallen off the radar, but perhaps re-introduction of the parasitic infection is overdue.
Trichomoniasis (commonly referred to as Trich) is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a single-celled parasite, Trichomonas Vaginalis. This parasite cannot be seen with the naked eye, but can be described as a pear-shaped organism with five tails when viewed under a microscope.1 Once the infection is transmitted, the parasite inhabits a human body and reproduces every 8 to 12 hours.3 That reproduction cycle can be 8 to 12 hours of your workday, while you’re at the gym, spending time with family and friends, or even while you’re asleep. As you’re going through your life routine, Trichomoniasis may be the farthest thing from your mind, but once T. Vaginalis crosses your path, you have simply provided this parasite with a home—your body.
Trichomoniasis enters the bodies of men and women via direct genital contact. It can spread from penis to a vagina, vagina to penis, or from vagina to another vagina.4 The parasite reveals different symptoms in men and women, if any at all. Majority of men, 90 percent, show no symptoms of the infection. Those men with symptoms report discharge from the urethra and pain with urination or ejaculation.1 Symptoms of trichomoniasis are more commonly detected in women. Infected women experience vaginal discharge, genital inflammation, and painful urination.1 These symptoms indicate the presence of an infection, but trichomoniasis overall is complex in nature. Symptoms can come and go without treatment and persistent over time.
Overall, about 70 percent of people with trichomoniasis do not recognize or report symptoms.4 Not having a concrete sign of being infected can leave many people to assume that they haven’t encountered the parasite. But in actuality, men and women can still be infected without showing symptoms and can pass the infection on to others.4 Without treatment, a trichomoniasis infection can last for months or years and it is impossible to diagnose the infection based on symptoms alone.5 The only sure way to know if you or your partner has been infected with trichomoniasis is to get a medical examination and laboratory testing done by a health care provider.
Untreated trichomoniasis can cause more serious health complications. A trichomoniasis infection triples a person’s risk for contracting HIV1, the AIDS causing virus that is not curable with antibiotics. Secondly, trichomoniasis can pose a threat to a pregnant woman and her baby. A baby can contract the infection from the mother, causing premature birth and low birth weight.4 Thirdly, trichomoniasis has also been linked to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). This disease causes damage to the female reproductive organs and is the most common cause of female infertility.6 These complications combined provide substantial evidence that the burden of trichomoniasis should be approached with efforts to reduce and avoid these life altering consequences that affect so many lives.
The trichomoniasis parasite is indeed back on the radar and the proof is in the quantity of people affected by it. There are approaches available to reduce your risk of trichomoniasis infection but from a public health standpoint, we want to focus on primary prevention. Primary prevention means that we want people to avoid encountering the trichomoniasis parasite. For unmarried individuals, avoiding sexual risk behaviors such as genital to genital contact is the only practical and certain way to avoid trichomoniasis. For those who choose to be sexually active, it is highly recommended that you do so in a committed long-term mutually monogamous relationship such as marriage.
- Grimes, Jill et al., “Trichomoniasis.” Sexually Transmitted Disease: An Encyclopedia of Diseases, Prevention, Treatment, and Issues, Volume 2: I-Z. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Publishers, 2014. pp.667-675.
- Rowley, Jane et al. “Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Trichomoniasis and Syphilis: Global Prevalence and Incidence Estimates, 2016.” World Health Organization, 6 June 2019, who.int/bulletin/online_first/BLT.18.228486.pdf?ua=1.
- “Trichomoniasis Causes, Symptoms, Treatment – Trichomoniasis Treatment.” EMedicineHealth, www.emedicinehealth.com/trichomoniasis/page4_em.htm.
- “Trichomoniasis.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 July 2017, cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm.
- “Trichomoniasis Symptoms & Testing in Men and Women.” STD Exposed – Sexual Health Blog, STDcheck, 29 Sept. 2017, stdcheck.com/blog/everything-about-trich-and-trichomoniasis-testing/.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – Symptoms, Treatment.” STD, 7 June 2017, www.std-gov.org/stds/pelvic_inflammatory_disease.htm.