Objectives Rectal infections with Chlamydia trachomatis and/or Neisseria gonorrhoeae (CT/NG) are common in men who have sex with men (MSM) and are linked to HIV transmission. However, rectal CT/NG infections are often asymptomatic and it is not known how they contribute to HIV transmission. We assessed clinical and cytological signs of inflammation as well as rectal HIV-RNA in HIV-infected MSM with and without CT/NG infection.
Methods 112 HIV-positive MSM with or without rectal symptoms and with or without antiretroviral therapy who underwent high-resolution anoscopy (HRA) at the proctological outpatient centre of the University Hospital Essen, Germany, between November 2013 and February 2014 were included in this cross-sectional study. During the examination, rectal swabs for the assessment of CT/NG, HIV-RNA and inflammatory cells (granulocytes, lymphocytes, histiocytes) were collected. 110 patients were assessed according to the study protocol, and no imputation of missing data was performed.
Results Rectal infections with CT or NG were detected in 17 participants, and 4 participants were coinfected. Only symptomatic CT/NG infections (8/17) showed signs of inflammation in HRA. Symptomatic CT/NG infections were also associated with the detection of lymphocytes and histiocytes in rectal cytology (both P<0.001). In contrast, asymptomatic CT/NG infections neither resulted in clinical nor cytological signs of inflammation. Rectal HIV-RNA was undetectable in all participants with rectal CT/NG infections who received combined antiretroviral therapy (ART) when plasma HIV-RNA was below the limit of detection (n=13). Besides rectal CT/NG infections, syphilis (n=4) and HPV-associated lesions (n=37) were frequently detected, and proctological symptoms were associated with simultaneous infection with ≥2 STDs.
Conclusions Only symptomatic but not asymptomatic rectal infections with CT and/or NG were associated with clinical and cytological signs of inflammation. Rectal HIV shedding was not promoted by CT/NG infections in patients receiving ART with suppressed plasma HIV-RNA.
Trial registration number UTN: U1111-1150-4804. German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS): DRKS00005468.
- neisseria gonorrhoea
- chlamydia trachomatis
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