What are Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)? How Are They Tested?
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) refer to infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites that transmit from person to person through the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or other bodily secretions of an infected person during sexual contact. These infections spread primarily by vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Since sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may not cause symptoms or remain dormant for years, they may go unnoticed until the development of complications or the diagnosis of a sexual partner. Therefore, getting informed on common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is critical for the prevention of transmission and complications. Read along to learn more about common types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), their symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
What is Syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. It is primarily transmitted through oral, vaginal, or anal sex and direct genital-to-genital contact. However, syphilis can also spread congenitally from an infected mother to their unborn babies, and very rarely through blood transfusions. While syphilis can affect anybody, people who have unprotected sex with multiple partners, people with HIV, and men who have sex with men are at higher risk of contracting syphilis.
Syphilis develops in stages with differing symptoms. In its primary stage which occurs 3 to 4 weeks after exposure to the bacteria, syphilis usually causes small, round, painless, and infectious sores called chancres. Chancres can emerge on the mouth, genitals, or rectum depending on where the bacteria have entered the body and heal with or without treatment within 3 to 10 weeks. If left untreated, the disease progresses to the secondary stage. In the secondary phase of syphilis, the infected person may develop a non-itching rash on the palms, soles, or elsewhere on the body. Other possible symptoms of secondary syphilis include sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fever, fatigue, weight loss, joint ache, and hair loss. As the rash and other symptoms can mimic other conditions such as pityriasis rosea, lichen planus, and psoriasis, secondary syphilis may be difficult to diagnose. In the third, or latent stage of syphilis, symptoms of primary and secondary stage disappear. The latent stage of syphilis can last for years before the last, or tertiary stage. After years or decades without treatment, many potentially life-threatening conditions, especially neurological and cardiovascular problems such as loss of sight and hearing, memory loss, meningitis, neurosyphilis, stroke, and heart disease can occur.
How is Syphilis Diagnosed and Treated?
There are both professional and at-home tests available for the diagnosis of syphilis. Simple and quick blood tests which detect the presence of antibodies produced in response to syphilis such as our Anti-Syphilis Rapid Test Kit, are commonly used for the detection and confirmation of syphilis. However, dark-field microscopy, which involves the analysis of body fluid specimen collected from chancres or spinal tap under a microscope, can also be utilized for the diagnosis of some cases such as congenital syphilis. Especially at its early stages, syphilis is easy to cure. Although the preferred treatment for all stages of syphilis is penicillin, if the patient cannot take penicillin due to an allergy or other condition, alternative antibiotic treatments are also available.
What is Viral Hepatitis (HAV, HBV, HCV)?
Viral hepatitis refers to liver inflammation due to infection with either of the five hepatotropic viruses hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Although other viruses such as cytomegalovirus, Epstein–Barr virus, and yellow fever are also known to cause liver inflammation, viral hepatitis is most commonly caused by infection with the hepatitis A virus (HAV), the hepatitis B virus (HBV), the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Of these infections, whereas hepatitis A causes acute and short-term disease, hepatitis B and hepatitis C often lead to the chronic and long-term form of the disease. In fact, according to Centers for Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 50% of people infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) develop a chronic infection. Along with unprotected sex, hepatitis A can transmit through the consumption of contaminated feces, the use of contaminated needles, razors, or toothbrushes, Hepatitis B commonly transmit through unprotected sex and exposure to bodily fluids of an infected person. On the other hand, hepatitis C spreads through contact with contaminated blood. Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C can also spread from mother to baby during delivery.
In acute infections, the symptoms of hepatitis may appear shortly after exposure to the virus. However, in chronic forms of hepatitis, symptoms may not emerge for decades until the infection damages the liver function. Common symptoms of viral hepatitis include jaundice, dark urine, pale stool, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, low-level fever, and weight loss. If left untreated, chronic hepatitis can lead to complications such as cirrhosis, chronic liver disease, liver failure, and liver cancer.
How is Viral Hepatitis (HAV, HBV, HCV) Diagnosed and Treated?
Diagnosis of viral hepatitis may involve blood tests such as liver function tests, polymerase chain reaction tests (PCR), antigen tests, and serological tests, along with imaging tests and liver biopsy. Rapid antigen tests such as our HBsAg rapid test kit target viral antigens on the surface of the virus and detect the presence of an infection in minutes. On the other hand, antibody tests such as our Anti-HAV IgM, Anti-HBs, and Anti-HCV rapid test kits detect the presence of antibodies specific to hepatitis A, B, and C produced in response to viral hepatitis.
Effective vaccination is available for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B. While hepatitis B vaccines are also known to offer protection against hepatitis D, there is currently no vaccine available for hepatitis C. As of now, there is no specific treatment for acute infections with hepatitis A and hepatitis B. However, certain therapeutic agents such as pegylated interferon-alpha, lamivudine, adefovir can be used for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B. Hepatitis C, on the other hand, can be treated with a drug combination consisting of pegylated interferon and ribavirin.
What is HIV/AIDS?
Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). As a retrovirus, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) inserts a DNA copy of its RNA genome into the DNA of the invaded cells, which makes HIV a lifelong condition. HIV targets the immune system, impairs the function of immune cells, and creates immunodeficiency, which leads to increased vulnerability against infections and cancer activity. HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk. If left untreated, HIV can develop into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), characterized by the occurrence of certain cancers, infections or other severe long-term conditions.
Within the early or acute phase of the infection, most people with HIV develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, skin rash, myalgia, swollen lymph nodes, headache, nausea, and sore throat. The severity of these symptoms may differ from person to person. Symptoms of the acute stage may come and go until the progression of the infection to the clinical latency stage. Some people in the clinical latency stage do not experience any symptoms while others experience minimal or non-specific symptoms. The clinical latency stage can last if a decade without treatment. However, if untreated, in its final stage HIV develops into AIDS.
How is HIV/AIDS Diagnosed and Treated?
HIV/AIDS can be diagnosed via antigen tests, antibody tests or nucleic acid tests (NATs) utilizing blood or saliva specimen. Some of these tests are also available as rapid tests and at-home test kits. By detecting both HIV-specific antigens and antibodies produced in response to HIV infection, some tests such as our Anti-HIV (1/2) Rapid Test Kit, can also enable convenient, quick, simple, and accurate screening for HIV with minimal specimen. Moreover, certain test kits, including our HBsAg/HCV/HIV/TP Rapid Test Kit, allow for the simultaneous detection of antigens and antibodies specific to HIV and other STIs such as viral hepatitis. According to Centers for Control and Prevention (CDC), life expectancy with final stage AIDS is around 3 years. However, with early diagnosis and antiretroviral therapy, it is possible to manage HIV and prevent the development of AIDS for decades.