OBJECTIVES--The aim of this study was to establish the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in women with Bartholin's gland abscess. SETTING--Gynaecology Clinic of King Edward VIII Hospital, a large urban, referral hospital for the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, serving an underprivileged population. METHODS--Thirty consecutive women presenting with unruptured Bartholin's gland abscesses were studied. Prior to surgical drainage, aspirates from the abscess cavity and swab specimens from the vagina and endocervix were collected for microbiological investigations. In addition peripheral venous blood samples were obtained for syphilis and HIV antibody testing. RESULTS--Antibody to HIV was detected in 9 of the 30 (30%) patients studied. Recognised sexually transmitted pathogens were detected in both aspirates and endocervical specimens: Chlamydia trachomatis was detected in 3 aspirate and 2 endocervical specimens whilst Neisseria gonorrhoeae was cultured in 5 aspirate and 7 endocervical specimens. When comparing microorganisms isolated from HIV antibody positive and negative women, only Bacteroides species yielded a significantly higher growth (p = 0.01) in the antibody positive women. CONCLUSION--Our findings show that women with Bartholin's gland abscesses have a high prevalence of HIV antibody. Furthermore, this is the only study that demonstrates a role for C trachomatis in the aetiology of Bartholin's gland abscesses. Health workers should be aware of the need for appropriate counselling, and comprehensive treatment of sexually transmitted infections including C trachomatis in women with Bartholin's gland abscesses.
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