Multisite Direct Determination of the Potential for Environmental Contamination of Urine Samples Used for Diagnosis of Sexually Transmitted Infections

J Pediatric Infect Dis Soc. 2014 Sep;3(3):189-96. doi: 10.1093/jpids/pit085. Epub 2013 Dec 19.


Background: The detection of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) agent in a urine specimen from a young child is regarded as an indicator of sexual contact. False positives may conceivably arise from the transfer of environmental contaminants in clinic toilet or bathroom facilities into urine specimens.

Methods: The potential for contamination of urine specimens with environmental STI nucleic acid was tested empirically in the male and female toilets or bathrooms at 10 Northern Territory (Australia) clinics, on 7 separate occasions at each. At each of the 140 experiments, environmental contamination with Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Trichomonas vaginalis nucleic acid contamination was determined by swabbing 10 locations, and urine collection was simulated 5 times, using a (1) synthetic urine surrogate and (2) a standardized finger contamination procedure.

Results: The most contaminated toilets and bathrooms were in remote Indigenous communities. No contamination was found in the Northern Territory Government Sexual Assault Referral Centre clinics, and intermediate levels of contamination were found in sexual health clinics and in clinics in regional urban centres. The frequency of surrogate urine sample contamination was low but non-zero. For example, 4 of 558 of the urine surrogate specimens from remote clinics were STI positive.

Conclusions: This is by far the largest study addressing the potential environmental contamination of urine samples with STI agents. Positive STI tests arising from environmental contamination of urine specimens cannot be ruled out. The results emphasize that urine specimens from young children taken for STI testing should be obtained by trained staff in clean environments, and duplicate specimens should be obtained if possible.

Keywords: contamination; diagnosis; false positive; sexually transmitted infection; urine.