Prevalence of and Factors Associated with Rectal-Only Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea in Women and in Men Who Have Sex with Men

PLoS One. 2015 Oct 29;10(10):e0140297. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140297. eCollection 2015.


Background: Both anorectal Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neisseria gonorrhoea (NG) can occur as a rectal-only infection or concurrently with simultaneous urogenital infection with the same pathogen. Characterising the target groups in which rectal-only infections occur may improve the efficacy of screening practices.

Methods: We analysed data from two Dutch outpatient sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics between 2011 and 2012. We included all men who have sex with men (MSM) (n = 9549) and women (n = 11113), ≥18 years, who had been tested for anorectal and urogenital CT and/or NG (either as a result of reporting anal sex/symptoms or via routine universal testing). Factors associated with rectal-only CT and NG infections were assessed using univariable and multivariable logistic regression.

Results: In MSM, anorectal CT prevalence was 9.8% (693/7094), anorectal NG prevalence was 4.2% (397/9534). In women this was 9.5% overall (439/4597) and 0.9% (96/10972) respectively. Anorectal CT prevalence among women who were routinely universally tested was 10.4% (20/192), for selective testing this was 9.5% (419/4405) (p = 0.68). Anorectal NG infections were not detected among women who were routinely universally tested (p = 0.19). Among CT or NG positive MSM, rectal-only CT infections were found in 85.9% (595/693), for NG this was 85.6% (340/397) respectively. In positive women these figures were 22.1% (97/439)for CT and 20.8% (20/96) for NG, respectively. In MSM, independent factors associated with rectal-only CT were: being a sex worker (OR0.4,CI0.2-1.0), exclusively having sex with men (OR3.4,CI1.7-6.8), and absence of urogenital symptoms (OR0.2,CI0.2-0.4). In women, these factors were: older age (OR2.3, CI1.3-4.0) and non-Western nationality (OR1.8, CI1.0-3.5). Factors associated with rectal-only NG in MSM were: having been warned for STIs by an (ex) partner (OR2.9,CI1.1-7.5), oropharyngeal NG infection (OR2.4,CI1.0-5.3), and absence of urogenital symptoms (OR0.02,CI0.01-0.04), while in women no significant factors were identified.

Conclusions: The prevalence of anorectal CT and NG was substantial in MSM and prevalence of anorectal CT was also substantial in women. Anorectal infections occurred mostly as rectal-only infections in MSM and mostly concurrent with other infections in women. Given the lack of useful indicators for rectal-only infections, selective screening based on a priori patient characteristics will have low discriminatory power both in relation to MSM and women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chlamydia Infections / epidemiology*
  • Chlamydia Infections / microbiology*
  • Coinfection
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Gonorrhea / epidemiology*
  • Gonorrhea / microbiology*
  • Homosexuality, Male*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Rectum / microbiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Partners
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.