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Rare Strain of Chlamydia Found Among MSM in U.S., Increases HIV Risk

May 11, 2006

An "unusually virulent" strain of chlamydia appears to be spreading in the U.S. primarily among men who have sex with men, raising concerns among officials about the increased risk of HIV transmission, federal researchers said on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reports (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 5/11). The strain, lymphogranuloma venereum chlamydia, or LGV, is caused by the same bacterium that causes more common strains of chlamydia. LGV -- which is associated with genital ulcers, swelling in the lymph glands in the groin and flu-like symptoms and can cause severe gastrointestinal distress -- most often is diagnosed among heterosexuals and can be treated with antibiotics. Men who experience rectal symptoms -- including bleeding of the rectum and colon -- most likely have contracted LGV through unprotected anal intercourse. Rectal inflammation and ulceration sometimes caused by LGV could increase the risk of transmitting or contracting HIV and other bloodborne diseases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/7). According to the Times, there are approximately 80 confirmed cases of LGV in the U.S., but infectious disease specialists believe the actual number is greater because of the difficulties associated with diagnosing LGV. CDC has verified 30 cases nationwide -- all among MSM -- and the New York City Department of Health of Mental Hygiene confirmed 31 cases of LGV in the last year, 30 of which were among MSM, according to Preeti Pathela of the department. The San Francisco Department of Public Health has confirmed about 20 cases of LGV. The numbers are "undoubtedly widely underestimated," Ron Ballard, branch chief of CDC's sexually transmitted diseases laboratory, said, adding, "Many cases are not suspected, and many of those suspected are not tested." According to the Times, testing for LGV is complicated and requires several days as well as sophisticated laboratory procedures. However, the time needed to diagnose LGV soon might be shortened by use of a genetic test that takes just a few hours (Los Angeles Times, 5/11).

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