Background: The etiological agent is usually not established in cases of genital ulcer disease (GUD) in Tanzania, since diagnosis and treatment of this disease are based mainly on clinical rather than microbiologic parameters. GUD increases the risk of infection with HIV. However, the association between specific GUD infections and HIV infection has not been fully investigated.
Goal: The goal was to determine the etiology of GUD and the prevalence of HIV infection in patients with GUD in urban areas of Tanzania.
Study design: A total of 102 clinical specimens were collected from 52 and 50 patients with GUD in Dar es Salaam and Mbeya, respectively, and from 93 patients with genital discharge in a cross-sectional study. Two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays were used to identify either a single target DNA or all three DNAs of the major causes of GUD: Haemophilus ducreyi, Treponema palladum and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). The sera from all patients were tested for antibodies to HIV and T palladum.
Results: In Dar es Salaam, DNA from HSV-2, and was detected in 63%, 13%, and 2%, respectively, of the 52 genital ulcer specimens. The corresponding figures in Mbeya were 34%, 10%, and 0% of 50 specimens. Overall, 9% of the 102 patients with GUD were infected with both HSV-2 and, and 39/102 genital ulcer specimens (38%) were negative for the DNA of all three pathogens. The HIV infection rates among GUD patients were 46% and 52% in Dar es Salaam and Mbeya, respectively; among the non-GUD patients, the corresponding rates were 35% and 45%, respectively. The HIV infection rate in Dar es Salaam was significantly higher among women (11/14; 78%) than among men (13/38; 34%) (P = 0.004). Among the HIV-seropositive GUD patients, 71% and 46% (P < 0.003) were coinfected with HSV-2 in Dar es Salaam and Mbeya, respectively. Furthermore, women with HSV-2 in Dar es Salaam were significantly more likely to be HIV-infected than men (60% versus 39%; P<or= 0.006). antibodies were detected in 27 (26%) of the 102 GUD patients and 16 (17%) of the 93 non-GUD patients.
Conclusion: HSV-2 was the most commonly identified agent in the genital ulcer specimens in two urban STD clinics in Tanzania. The prevalence of HIV was high among the STD patients. HSV-2 was detected at significantly higher rates among HIV-seropositive than HIV-seronegative patients with GUD in both Dar es Salaam and Mbeya.