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Scientists Decipher Genome for 'Nasty' STD

Trichomonas vaginalis associated with pelvic disease, risk of HIV infection in women

THURSDAY, Jan. 11, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have cracked the genome of the parasite that causes trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease that affects 170 million people worldwide each year.

This detailed genetic information about Trichomonas vaginalis will lead to new ways of diagnosing and treating the disease, according to the researchers.

A draft sequence of the single-celled parasite's genome appears in the Jan. 12 issue of Science. The project included 66 researchers in 10 countries. They identified 26,000 confirmed genes in Trichomonas vaginalis and say there may be an additional 34,000 unconfirmed genes.

"It is a nasty bug," team leader Jane Carlton, an associate professor in the department of medical parasitology at New York University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

In women, the parasite attaches to the vaginal lining and sends tendril-like projections into the tissue. Trichomonas vaginalis also secretes proteins that destroy the cells the make up the tissue of the vaginal lining.

Genital itching, vaginal discharge, inflamed cervix and pain during urination or intercourse are among the symptoms experienced by women infected with the parasite, according to background information in a news release.

Acute infection is associated with pelvic inflammatory disease, and trichomoniasis increases a woman's risk of being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Pregnant women with trichomoniasis are more likely to have premature babies or babies with low birth weight.

Men infected with the parasite may experience mild symptoms such as a burning sensation after urination and may suffer urogenital infections such as urethritis and prostatitis.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about trichomoniasis.

SOURCE: New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine, news release, Jan. 11, 2007
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