PULLMAN – Trichomonas vaginalis, sometimes referred to as “trich,” could be considered the number one sexually transmitted disease in the nation, and, disturbingly, most people don’t even know about it, said WSU Professor John Alderete, School of Molecular Biosciences.
Alderete has studied the STD for more than 30 years and said the infection really catches groups he talks to off-guard.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated incidence of 7.4 million new cases occurs each year in women and men. Others in the STD clinical community place the incidence at close to 12 million this year, said Alderete. “It is now, in respect to incidence, the number one sexually transmitted disease agent in our county and worldwide.”
“When I give seminars involving Trichomonas vaginalis, not a single one [in the audience] has heard of…trich before. My audiences, for the most part, know of all the other traditional STDs … It really shocks them when you start talking about the impact it has on their health,” Alderete said.
Alderete said trich has been linked to a number of health concerns in women, including infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer and adverse pregnancy outcomes including low birthweights. There is also an increased vulnerability to HPV, herpes and HIV.
In men, recent findings suggest there may be a link between trich and a fatal type of prostate cancer.
The goal of Alderete’s research is to discover how trich really infects humans, and to get a clearer number of how widespread the infection is through the invention of commercializable point-of-care diagnostics.
“We really want to know, given the number one nature of this STD, the incidence, the true incidence, whether [it permeates] all age groups, and what is the rate of infection,” said Alderete.