Trichomonas Vaginalis - What Is It?

 

Have you been recently told you or a sexual partner have trichomonas vaginalis (TV)? Have you heard people talking about TV, and you thought they meant the thing you watch movies on? Well, we are, in fact, talking about Trichomonas vaginalis, a sexually transmitted parasite. We are here to tell you what it is, how it spreads, how you can tell if you have it and most importantly, how you get rid of it. So read on if you are intrigued!

Trichomonas vaginalis, “trich” or “TV” for short, is not some kind of object from outer space. Instead, it is a parasite which loves to live in the urogenital tract - i.e. the vagina, the penis or the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body), causing an infection referred to as trichomoniasis. Interestingly, the parasite does not tend to survive in the mouth or anus.

NB: A parasite is defined as an organism that lives at the expense of another organism.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about TV.

So How Does It Spread?

TV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and as the name would suggest, it spreads through sexual intercourse, particularly penile penetration into a vagina or vagina to vagina. It does not commonly spread via anal or oral sex. Check out our article on the “5 ways to reduce your risk of getting an STI” for more information on the spread of STIs!

How Common Is TV?

TV is probably the most common non-viral STI in the world. It is more common in women, with a global prevalence of 5.3% in women and 0.6% in men. It is most common in people under 25 years old, which is generally seen with most STIs in the UK. And in England, there is 10 times the number of cases in black ethnic minority populations than in the general population.

How Do I Know If I Have TV?

Up to half of people infected with TV will not know they have it. So doing a test is the best way to know if you have TV. Check out our article on “the most common STI symptom? No symptom at all” for more information! 

Some of the symptoms of TV include penile or vaginal discharge, which is often white or frothy in appearance, pain when passing urine or discomfort or itching around the vulva. But again, you may have some, none or all of these symptoms - so your best way of knowing is by doing a test!

When Should I Have A Test For TV?

You should get tested for TV if:

  • You have symptoms that may indicate TV infection
  • A recent sexual partner has tested positive for TV
  • You have symptoms of an STI but have tested negative for chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

Tests are available here at Yoxly as part of our Basic+, Standard and Comprehensive kits. 

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The incubation period (the length of time from infection to the onset of signs/symptoms or the 1st positive test) for TV is 5 to 28 days, which means you may not know you are infected until 28 days after the episode of unprotected sex. If in doubt, do a test.

You may be recommended a routine test for TV if:

  • You are pregnant
  • Your Doctor suspects it from clinical examination
  • You have another STI
  • You have recently had unprotected sex with a new sexual partner

What Is The Treatment For TV? And How Long Does TV Last?

TV is treated with 5–7 days of antibiotics, usually taken twice daily. You should avoid sexual intercourse for at least 1 week, and until your partner(s) have completed their treatment and follow-up.

Can TV Go Away On Its Own?

TV can, in rare cases, spontaneously resolve, particularly in men. But if you have tested positive for TV, treatment is recommended.

What Happens If I Don’t Get Treatment?

Complications of TV are rare; however, there is some emerging evidence that ongoing TV infection can enhance HIV transmission; therefore, you are at higher risk of contracting HIV if you have untreated TV.

Do I Need To Tell My Partners?

If you test positive for TV, you should let your partners know, both current and past, as they may also need testing and treatment. However, once the TV has been cleared, there is no requirement to tell future partners of your past TV infection.

How Do I Prevent Getting TV?

The best way to prevent getting TV is using barrier methods, male or female condoms. Read our article “Types of condoms” to learn more about picking the right condom for you and your sexual partner. Ensure you still use a condom or dam even when not having penetrative sex; STIs can spread via genital fluid.

Can I Get A TV Infection In A Neovagina?

TV is not a known issue for people with a neovagina following gender reassignment surgery.

Can TV Be Spread Through Kissing?

No, TV cannot be passed on through kissing, hugging, sharing cutlery or towels or via toilet seats. Check out our article on “can you get herpes from a toilet seat” for more information!

Can TV Spread Via Sex Toys?

Yes, TV can be spread via sex toys if you do not wash them correctly or use a new condom before using the toy.

What Happens If I Get TV And I Am Pregnant?

If you get a TV infection during pregnancy, there is a risk of early delivery (premature birth) or a baby with low birth weight. There is also a small chance of transmission of TV to the baby. TV treatment is safe to take during pregnancy; however, when breastfeeding, the treatment may alter the taste of the breast milk, so you may have to express and get rid of the breast milk whilst on treatment.

There is no evidence that TV infection impacts fertility.

In summary, TV is a little-known but common STI that often isn’t tested for in a routine STI screen. TV is passed on through unprotected intercourse, and may cause symptoms such as vaginal discharge and discomfort passing urine. Here at Yoxly, we test for TV as part of our Basic+, Standard and Comprehensive kits. TV is easily treated, and if you test positive, we will advise you exactly how to get effective treatment and follow-up.

 

Yoxly's Awesome Contributors (YACs) are a diverse group of individuals who are passionate about public health, and committed to furthering our mission. Yoxly provides a platform where a variety of sexual health topics (some more awkward than others!) can be explored, in an informative and non-judgmental way. If you'd like to become one of Yoxly's Awesome Contributors, contact us!

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