Infectious Disease

Evidence builds that pandemic negatively impacted STI testing

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sources:

Upadhyay P, et al. Abstract 5362. Presented at: ASM Microbe; June 9-13, 2022; Washington, D.C

Disclosures:
Singh reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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WASHINGTON — Researchers at ASM Microbe presented more evidence that there was a decline in STI testing and prevention measures in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many common infections later increased to higher than pre-pandemic rates, they found.

IDN0622Upadhyay_Graphic_01_WEB

Upadhyay P, et al.

“The COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on health care services around the world, including routine testing of other infections,” Vijay Singh, PhD, vice president of research and development at HealthTrackRX, an infectious disease laboratory, told Healio.

The CDC reported in 2020 that a decline in testing during the early lockdown period — coupled with “sexual distancing” — led to a decline in reported STIs compared with projected numbers. Singh said he and his colleagues noticed a similar downturn.

“STIs and the stigma attached with [them] present a unique public health challenge, and experts have speculated that the lower testing during the pandemic would result in increased STIs later,” Singh said.

Singh and colleagues analyzed data on STIs in symptomatic patients between 2019 and 2022 to determine changes in monthly circulation rates and calculated changes in patterns of infection during 2020 and 2021 compared with 2019.

Overall, they tested 601,459 patient samples between January 2019 and December 2021. In the first half of 2020, the researchers saw “a significant downturn” in STI testing, which they attributed to the lockdown measures that were in place to prevent COVID-19 spread .

They found that a significantly higher proportion of the STI-positive tests were attributed to women. More recent data showed a significant increase in infections including chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, mycoplasma and ureaplasma in 2021 compared with 2019 and during the lockdown measures in 2020.

CDC data published last year also showed a resurgence in STIs following an early-pandemic decline, and data published earlier this year demonstrated that a yearslong surge in the STIs has continued.

“As the STI instances are increasing, we are faced with a new reproductive and public health challenge,” Singh said. “These infections can be effectively controlled by routine testing and there is an urgent need for widespread routine diagnostic testing for sexually transmitted infections.”

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