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Are You Following the “Not so New” 2010 CDC STI Treatment Guidelines?

 
by R. Mimi Secor, MS, M.Ed, FNP-BC, FAANP – January 16, 2012   Bookmark and Share


The New CDC STD Treatment Guidelines were released in December 2010 and provide the most current, evidence-based recommendations for screening, diagnosis and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections.
 
As both the incidence and prevalence of STIs in the US and Worldwide continue to burgeon, the proportion of patients that are appropriately screened is significantly lower than recommended in these recently published guidelines.  This is especially a problem among the highest risk populations of young adults 25 years old and younger. It is estimated that only 40- 60% of young adults are appropriately screened for chlamydia.
 
Yet, rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, genital herpes, HPV, HIV and syphilis are all increasing particularly among adolescents, young adults and high risk populations.  Often asymptomatic (over half of women with chlamydia or bacterial vaginosis) and unaware they harbor various STIs, many go undetected and untreated.  This contributes to further transmission of STIs and may also increase the risk of developing associated complications and sequelae such as PID, chronic pelvic pain, infertility and preterm labor. 
 
When patients ask to be screened for all STIs what tests do you order?   When do you test patients for genital herpes? Are you retesting your patients with confirmed gonorrhea 1 week post treatment as recommended?  BUT are you still treating patients with BV in pregnancy with vaginal antibiotics even though the “new” guidelines warn against vaginal treatment?
 
The New CDC STD Treatment Guidelines were released in December 2010 and continue to provide the most current, evidence-based recommendations for screening, diagnosis and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections. To provide the highest quality STI care, clinicians need to familiarize themselves with these “not so new” guidelines.
 
As both the incidence and prevalence of STIs in the US and Worldwide continues to increase rapidly, the proportion of patients that are appropriately screened is significantly lower than recommended.  This is especially a problem among the highest risk populations of young adults 25 years old and younger.
 
In fact, it is estimated that only 40- 60% of young adults are appropriately screened for chlamydia. With 1 million cases of chlamydia reported each year, it’s estimated there are another 2 million infections undiagnosed each year. Undiagnosed chlamydia can lead to PID, chronic pelvic pain and infertility.
 
Yet, rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, genital herpes, HPV, HIV and syphilis are all increasing particularly among adolescents, young adults, and high risk populations including aging baby boomers.
 
 According to a new report, rates of trichomoniasis in women 40 and over range from 8 to 13%.  This is a disturbingly high rate especially since most clinicians are unaware of this and do not routinely screen older women for trichomoniasis.
 
 Often asymptomatic (over half of women with chlamydia or bacterial vaginosis) and unaware they harbor various STIs, many go undetected and untreated.  This contributes to further transmission of STIs and may also increase the risk of developing associated complications and sequelae such as PID, chronic pelvic pain, infertility and preterm labor. 
 
There is an urgent need for more comprehensive STI screening particularly targeting high risk populations, adolescents, young adults, and individuals of any age who are “at risk” by history including the growing older population.
 
Opportunistic screening is a new trend in the US (widely implemented in Canada and the UK) that involves screening for STIs at the same time patients are seen for other health problems.  With convenient and accurate PCR urine testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea, office based-outpatient HIV testing, and new vaginal pH screening tests now available, opportunistic screening is an effective screening strategy that’s quick, easy and affordable.  
 
Vaginal microscopy is moderately accurate (approximately 60% for average proficiency) for diagnosing vaginal infections including some STIs such as trichomoniasis.  However, accuracy depends largely on the skill of the clinician, and it’s fairly complex and time consuming. 
 
Therefore many clinicians rely on their clinical judgment “eyeballing” discharge and treating based on symptoms and empiric diagnosis.  This approach is inaccurate and not recommended by the CDC.  Relying on Pap smear reports suggesting vaginitis or STIs is also not recommended due to low sensitivity and specificity.
 
Use of vaginal pH testing is another diagnostic option for vaginitis and vaginitis related STI screening (e.g. checking for trichomoniasis).  Traditionally, vaginal pH testing involves the use of Nitrazine pH paper (on a roll) requiring multiple steps to conduct the test including use of a color and numerical scale to determine if the test is normal or abnormal.  Considered too cumbersome and time consuming for many busy clinicians, vaginal pH testing is not widely utilized.
 
New, improved vaginal pH tests are now available affording a simple and quick way to screen patients during both routine and problem gynecologic visits.
 
The new VS-SENSE diagnostic vaginal swab test facilitates diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis (BV) and trichomoniasis by identifying changes in the acidity parameters of the vaginal secretions. The VS-SENSE swab is coated with an innovative proprietary polymer which contains a colorimetric pH indicator, Nitrazine yellow.  When the polymer in the swab, which is yellow before use, contacts vaginal fluid and reaches a specific threshold, the user observes a blue or green color change on the swab.  When the tip of the swab stains blue or green the VS-SENSE test is positive indicating an elevated vaginal pH level (>4.7 +.3/-.2) which is associated with bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis and atrophic vaginitis (low estrogen).  If after 10 seconds the swab tip does not change color, but remains yellow, the VS-SENSE test is negative, indicating that vaginal acidity is normal and the risk of having an infection associated with elevated vaginal pH level in unlikely.
 
The VS-SENSE technology is based on combining the measurement of the vaginal pH with buffer capacity (the concentration of protein within the discharge) which together raises the overall accuracy of the test to over 90%.
 
This new vaginal pH test, VS-SENSE, provides a quick, easy, accurate approach for screening and diagnosis of vaginitis and is especially well suited for busy primary care and women’s health practices. For more information about this pH test go to; www.cs-commonsense.com or check my website www.mimisecor.com
 
For more information on courses/presentations, management of vaginal infections and STIs, and to download a PDF copy of the 2010 CDC STI Treatment Guidelines, visit,  www.mimisecor.com or go to, www.cdc.gov/stds.org
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