OBJECTIVES--To evaluate the role of detecting asymptomatic bacteriuria and endocervical infections in the black prenatal patients attending King Edward VIII Hospital (KEH), Durban, with the view of justifying a screening programme. Screening for syphilis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection were also evaluated. SUBJECTS--181 asymptomatic black prenatal patients attending the antenatal clinic for their first antenatal visit volunteered for the study and gave their written consent. DESIGN--Examination of each prenatal patient included obtaining of endocervical swabs to detect endocervical infections (C trachomatis, N gonorrhoeae), serum for syphilitic and HIV testing, and a midstream specimen of urine for microscopy and culture. RESULTS--Asymptomatic bacteriuria was found in 5.6% of patients in this study. Cervical infections were diagnosed microbiologically in 8.2% of women. These were N gonorrhoeae in 4.1% and C trachomatis in 4.7%. Serological tests for sexually transmitted diseases showed the presence of syphilis in 7.6% and antibody to the HIV in 1.9%. Overall, one or more sexually transmitted diseases were found in 16.5% of the women studied. CONCLUSIONS--This study suggests that all women presenting for routine antenatal care in a setting such as Durban should be screened for lower genital tract infections. Ideally this should include a midstream urine specimen for culture, serum for syphilitic and HIV antibody testing and endocervical swabs for sexually transmitted pathogens. In developing communities, however, more reliable and cheaper methods of endocervical screening need to be available before antenatal screening for cervico-vaginal infections can be justified.
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