Written for Mediaplanet’s Women’s Health campaign published in Maclean’s magazine in March 2016.
The parasitic infection, caused by an organism called Trichomonas vaginalis, is more common than chlamydia and gonorrhea combined. In the U.S., an estimated 3.7 million people have trichomoniasis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but only 30 percent of patients will show signs of infection.
Women with trichomoniasis, also known as “trich,” typically experience vaginal discharge, odour, irritation, and pain during urination or sex — symptoms that can easily be mistaken for other conditions such as yeast infections, bacterial vaginitis, or other STIs.
“This makes it very challenging to make a diagnosis based on clinical symptoms alone,” says Dr. Anu Rebbapragada, director of the microbiology lab at Dynacare, a health solutions company. “That’s why an accurate test is required — a test that is highly specific and highly sensitive, that can distinguish between the different pathogens that can infect a woman, and give a definitive diagnosis.”