Cervicitis aetiology and case definition: a study in Australian women attending sexually transmitted infection clinics

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Abstract

Objectives

Studies examining cervicitis aetiology and prevalence lack comparability due to varying criteria for cervicitis. We aimed to outline cervicitis associations and suggest a best case definition.

Methods

A cross-sectional study of 558 women at three sexually transmitted infection clinics in Sydney, Australia, 2006–2010, examined pathogen and behavioural associations of cervicitis using three cervicitis definitions: ‘microscopy’ (>30 pmnl/hpf (polymorphonuclear leucocytes per high-powered field on cervical Gram stain)), ‘cervical discharge’ (yellow and/or mucopurulent cervical discharge) or ‘micro+cervical discharge’ (combined ‘microscopy’ and ‘cervical discharge’).

Results

Chlamydia trachomatis (CT), Mycoplasma genitalium (MG), Trichomonas vaginalis (TV) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG) had the strongest associations with cervicitis definitions ‘micro+cervical discharge’: CT adjusted prevalence ratio (APR)=2.13 (95% CI 1.38 to 3.30) p=0.0006, MG APR=2.21 (1.33 to 3.69) p=0.002, TV APR=2.37 (1.44 to 3.90) p=0.0007 NG PR=4.42 (3.79 to 5.15) p<0.0001 and ‘cervical discharge’: CT APR=1.90 (1.25 to 2.89) p=0.003, MG APR=1.93 (1.17 to 3.19) p=0.011, TV APR=2.02 (1.24 to 3.31) p=0.005 NG PR=3.88 (3.36 to 4.48) p<0.0001. Condom use for vaginal sex ‘always/sometimes’ reduced cervicitis risk: (‘micro+cervical discharge’) APR=0.69 (0.51 to 0.93) p=0.016. Combined population attributable risk % (PAR%) of these four pathogens was only 18.0% with a protective PAR% of condoms of 25.7%. Exposures not associated with cervicitis included bacterial vaginosis, Mycoplasma hominis, Ureaplasma urealyticum, herpes simplex virus 1&2, cytomegalovirus, Candida, age, smoking and hormonal contraception.

Conclusions

Cervicitis was associated with CT, MG, TV and NG with combined PAR% of these pathogens only 18% in this setting, suggesting other factors are involved. Condoms significantly reduced cervicitis risk. Cervicitis definitions with best clinical utility and pathogen prediction were ‘cervical discharge’ and ‘micro+cervical discharge’.

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