Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise in the US1. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans have an STI, and the rates for many common STIs, such as syphilis and chlamydia, continue to increase1,2. Young adults aged 15 to 24 accounted for 45.5% of new infections in 2018, while the STI incidence rate in adults aged 55+ increased more than 100% from 2014 to 20182,3. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, STI cases declined, likely in part due to restrictive access to STI clinics and overburdened diagnostics labs. However, by the end of 2020, the number of diagnosed cases fully resurged1.

The Challenges

Many STIs are referred to as silent infections. According to research, it’s been estimated that up to 77% of STIs may occur without symptoms2,6,7. Without routine testing, people with asymptomatic STIs may not be aware that they have an infection and are more likely to spread the infection to their partner(s).

If left untreated, STIs can cause a range of serious health concerns including chronic pelvic pain and increased risk of HIV. In particular, women are susceptible to long-term consequences such as infertility or issues during pregnancy.8 Certain STIs, such as syphilis, can be transferred mother-to-child in the womb and can result in stillbirth, neonatal death, low-birth weight and prematurity8,9. With this in mind, it is crucial that routine, reliable testing is carried out to identify infections early to inform treatment and prevent serious long-term adverse health effects.

Testing Today

There are many barriers to STI testing, including stigma around STIs and a lack of awareness or education regarding STIs. With testing rates in the US as low as 37% in young men10–12,  it is important to have accessible, affordable testing options so that people can be aware of and monitor their sexual health.

Although there are several testing methods available to diagnose STIs, nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT) has become the preferred testing method for a range of STIs including chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis13,14. NAAT testing provides high sensitivity and specificity through amplifying and detecting specific pathogen genomic material.

The Pandemic Response Lab (PRL) Solution

Pandemic Response Lab's STI panel (coming soon) can simultaneously test for Chlamydia trachomatis, Trichomonas vaginalis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the pathogens causing three of the most common STIs. Using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, these pathogens can be detected and differentiated via a non-invasive urine collection method for both men and women. The ability to test for multiple infections at once and the rapid response time allows infections to be identified quickly. For more information on how PRL can enhance your diagnostic testing services, contact us today.

1. 2020 STD Surveillance Report | Newsroom | CDC. Published April 12, 2022. Accessed June 16, 2022.
2. CDC. STI Prevalence, Incidence, and Cost Estimates Infographic. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published January 25, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2022.
3. STIs & Older Americans: Where Does Your State Stand? The Senior List. Accessed June 16, 2022.
4. Charles H, Ratna N, Thorn L, et al. COVID-19 impact on bacterial sexually transmitted infections in England between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2020. Sex Transm Infect. Published online September 21, 2021. doi:10.1136/sextrans-2021-055262
5. Pinto CN, Niles JK, Kaufman HW, et al. Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Screening in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2021;61(3):386-393. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2021.03.009
6. Braun DL, Marzel A, Steffens D, et al. High Rates of Subsequent Asymptomatic Sexually Transmitted Infections and Risky Sexual Behavior in Patients Initially Presenting With Primary Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 Infection. Clin Infect Dis. 2018;66(5):735-742. doi:10.1093/cid/cix873
7. Farley TA, Cohen DA, Elkins W. Asymptomatic sexually transmitted diseases: the case for screening. Prev Med. 2003;36(4):502-509. doi:10.1016/s0091-7435(02)00058-0
8. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Accessed June 16, 2022.
9. Braccio S, Sharland M, Ladhani SN. Prevention and treatment of mother-to-child transmission of syphilis. Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases. 2016;29(3):268-274. doi:10.1097/QCO.0000000000000270
10. Cunningham SD, Kerrigan DL, Jennings JM, Ellen JM. Relationships Between Perceived STD-Related Stigma, STD-Related Shame and STD Screening Among a Household Sample of Adolescents. Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2009;41(4):225-230. doi:10.1363/4122509
11. Morris JL, Lippman SA, Philip S, Bernstein K, Neilands TB, Lightfoot M. Sexually Transmitted Infection Related Stigma and Shame Among African American Male Youth: Implications for Testing Practices, Partner Notification, and Treatment. AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2014;28(9):499-506. doi:10.1089/apc.2013.0316
12. Alarcon J, Loeb TB, Hamilton AB, et al. Barriers to Testing for Sexually Transmitted Infections among HIV-Serodiscordant Couples: The Influence of Discrimination. Ethn Dis. 30(2):261-268. doi:10.18865/ed.30.2.261
13. Cosentino LA, Campbell T, Jett A, et al. Use of Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing for Diagnosis of Anorectal Sexually Transmitted Infections. J Clin Microbiol. 2012;50(6):2005-2008. doi:10.1128/JCM.00185-12
14. Rönn MM, Grath-Lone LM, Davies B, Wilson JD, Ward H. Evaluation of the performance of nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) in detection of chlamydia and gonorrhoea infection in vaginal specimens relative to patient infection status: a systematic review. BMJ Open. 2019;9(1):e022510. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-022510

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How to Combat the Silent Spread of STIs

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