Comparison of diagnostic methods and analysis of socio-demographic factors associated with Trichomonas vaginalis infection in Sri Lanka

PLoS One. 2021 Oct 13;16(10):e0258556. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0258556. eCollection 2021.


Background: Trichomonas vaginalis infection is underreported due to nonspecific clinical presentation and the nonavailability of sensitive laboratory diagnostic tests at the clinical setup. Hence, this study was designed to compare the sensitivity and specificity of microscopy and culture methods with polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The socio-demographic factors associated with the infection were explored.

Methods: The study was carried out at the National Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome Control Programme in Colombo and Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome Control Programme in Kandy. Samples were collected from a total of 385 patients including, 272 females (70.7%) and 113 males (29.3%), and tested using microscopy (wet mount and Giemsa staining), culture, and PCR. Genus-specific primer set (TFR1/TFR2) that amplifies 5.8S rRNA and species-specific primer sets (TV16Sf-2/TV16Sr-2 and TVK3/7) that amplifies 18S rRNA and repetitive DNA, respectively, were used. Patient's socio-demographic and sexual behaviour data were obtained using a standard interviewer-administered questionnaire. Data were analyzed with R statistical software Version 3.6.3.

Results: The overall prevalence of trichomoniasis was 4.4% (17/385). Of these, six (1.6%) were positive for microscopic examination, 7 (1.8%) were positive for culture, and 13 (3.4%) for TVK3/7, 15 (3.9%) for TV16Sf/r, and TFR1/2 17 (4.4%) were positive for PCR. Sensitivities of PCR using TFR1/2, TV16Sf/r, and TVK3/7 primer sets were 100%, 88.20%, and 76.50%, respectively, against the expanded gold standard. Trichomoniasis was associated with age above 36 (p = 0.033), not using condoms in last three months (p = 0.016), multiple sex partners (p = 0.001), reason for attendance (p = 0.027), symptomatic nature (p = 0.015), and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (p = 0.001).

Conclusions: The study highlighted that age over 36 years, multiple sex partners, not using condoms, reason for attendance, symptomatic nature, and having other sexually transmitted diseases can increase the risk of acquiring trichomoniasis. Furthermore, this study confirmed PCR as highly sensitive and specific diagnostic test for the diagnosis of trichomoniasis in comparison to microscopy and culture methods.

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.