Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections A Review

Abstract

Importance  Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the US had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in 2018. This review provides an update on the epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, Mycoplasma genitalium, trichomoniasis, and genital herpes.

Observations  From 2015 to 2019, the rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis increased in the US; from 1999 to 2016, while the rates of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and HSV-2 declined. Populations with higher rates of STIs include people younger than 25 years, sexual and gender minorities such as men and transgender women who have sex with men, and racial and ethnic minorities such as Black and Latinx people. Approximately 70% of infections with HSV and trichomoniasis and 53% to 100% of extragenital gonorrhea and chlamydia infections are asymptomatic or associated with few symptoms. STIs are associated with HIV acquisition and transmission and are the leading cause of tubal factor infertility in women. Nucleic acid amplification tests have high sensitivities (86.1%-100%) and specificities (97.1%-100%) for the diagnosis of gonorrhea, chlamydia, M genitalium, trichomoniasis, and symptomatic HSV-1 and HSV-2. Serology remains the recommended method to diagnose syphilis, typically using sequential testing to detect treponemal and nontreponemal (antiphospholipid) antibodies. Ceftriaxone, doxycycline, penicillin, moxifloxacin, and the nitroimidazoles, such as metronidazole, are effective treatments for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, M genitalium, and trichomoniasis, respectively, but antimicrobial resistance limits oral treatment options for gonorrhea and M genitalium. No cure is available for genital herpes. Effective STI prevention interventions include screening, contact tracing of sexual partners, and promoting effective barrier contraception.

Conclusions and Relevance  Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the US had an STI in 2018. Rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis in the US have increased, while rates of HSV-1 and HSV-2 have declined. Ceftriaxone, doxycycline, penicillin, moxifloxacin, and the nitroimidazoles are effective treatments for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, Mycoplasma genitalium, and trichomoniasis, respectively, but antimicrobial resistance limits oral therapies for gonorrhea and Mycoplasma genitalium, and no cure is available for genital herpes.

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