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Trichomonas Testing

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Also known as: T. vaginalis; Wet Prep
Formal name: Trichomonas vaginalis; Trichomonas vaginalis RNA; Trichomonas vaginalis Culture; Trichomonas vaginalis DNA Probe; Trichomonas vaginalis by Amplified Detection; Trichomonas vaginalis by Direct Fluorescent Antibody (DFA)

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

Testing can detect an infection with Trichomonas vaginalis, a microscopic, single cell (protozoan) parasite that is usually transmitted sexually, causing vaginal infections in women and urethral infections (urethritis) and prostatitis in men.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), trichomoniasis, which is caused by the infection, is the most common, curable sexually transmitted disease (STD). In the U.S., an estimated 3.7 million people have the infection, but only about 30% develop any symptoms. Symptoms are more common in women than in men.

Trichomonas vaginalis is one of the most common causes of vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina) in women. When they occur, symptoms include:

  • Vaginal swelling
  • Itching, irritation, soreness
  • Burning sensation
  • Frothy, yellow-green vaginal discharge
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Possible blood-spotting

In men, symptoms may include:

  • Burning after urinating or ejaculating
  • Itching or irritation of the urethra
  • Discharge from the urethra

These symptoms may take 5 to 28 days after exposure to an infected person or longer to develop; however, once diagnosed, trichomoniasis is easily treated with prescription antibiotics. During treatment, an infected person should cease sexual activity and inform partners so that they can also be treated and prevent re-infection.

How is the sample collected for testing?

In women, a swab of secretions is collected from the vagina. The sample may be obtained from the same thin-layer collection vial used for a Pap smear. In men, a swab is inserted into the urethra. Urine samples may also be used.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No test preparation is needed.