Background: This study was undertaken to establish the etiology of the male urethral discharge (MUDS) and vaginal discharge (VDS) syndromes, to determine the prevalence of other sexually transmitted infections (STI) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) coinfections, and to examine associations between STIs and HIV serostatus among STI patients in South Africa.
Methods: A total of 507 MUDS and 300 VDS patients were recruited in Cape Town (CPT) and Johannesburg (JHB). A multiplex polymerase chain reaction assay detected Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, Trichomonas vaginalis, and Mycoplasma genitalium infections. Bacterial vaginosis and candidiasis were detected by microscopy. Sera were screened for syphilis, HSV-2, and HIV antibodies.
Results: Etiological diagnoses were made for 92% of MUDS patients and 85% of VDS patients. Gonorrhoea accounted for 85% (CPT) and 71% (JHB) of MUDS presentations. Chlamydia was the second most frequently detected MUDS pathogen (CPT, 13%; JHB, 24%). Among VDS patients, bacterial vaginosis was the most common cause (CPT, 46%; JHB, 36%) and trichomoniasis the most frequently detected STI pathogen (CPT, 19%; JHB, 34%). Few patients (4%) had serological evidence of syphilis. The HSV-2 and HIV seroprevalence were higher in Johannesburg compared to Cape Town and among women compared to men. HIV infection was statistically significantly associated with HSV-2 seropositivity at both sites and with the presence of N. gonorrhoeae and absence of C. trachomatis in Cape Town MUDS patients.
Conclusions: Gonorrhoea and bacterial vaginosis were confirmed as the most frequent causes of MUDS and VDS. The high HIV seroprevalence in STI patients emphasizes the need to address HIV testing among this population.