Background: Clinical diagnosis of genital ulcers is difficult, and diagnostic tests are least available in settings where rates of disease are highest. The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed protocols for the syndromic management of genital ulcers in resource-poor settings. However, because risk factors, patterns and causes of disease, and antimicrobial susceptibilities differ from region to region and over time, they must be adapted to local situations.
Goal: The goal of this study was to determine etiologic factors, evaluate syndromic management, and compare polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing with other diagnostic alternatives for genital ulcers among patients attending sexually transmitted disease clinics in the Dominican Republic and Peru.
Study design: Eighty-one men with genital ulcers in the Dominican Republic and 63 in Peru underwent identical interviews and identical multiplex PCR (M-PCR) tests of genital lesion specimens for etiologic diagnoses. Algorithms for managing genital ulcers were developed.
Results: In the Dominican Republic, 5% were M-PCR-positive for, 26% for, and 43% for herpes simplex virus (HSV); in Peru, 10%, 5%, and 43%, respectively, were positive. The WHO algorithm for treating syphilis and chancroid had a sensitivity of 100%, a positive predictive value (PPV) of 24%, and an overtreatment rate of 76%. A modified algorithm for treating only those without vesicular lesions had 88% sensitivity and a 27% PPV, and the overtreatment rate was reduced to 58%.
Conclusion: HSV caused 43% of genital ulcers in these populations. The modified algorithm had lower sensitivity but a reduced overtreatment rate. M-PCR testing was more sensitive than standard tests and more specific and sensitive than clinical diagnosis.