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Sex Transm Infect. 1998 Jun;74 Suppl 1:S85-94.

Rapid and inexpensive approaches to managing abnormal vaginal discharge or lower abdominal pain: an evaluation in women attending gynaecology and family planning clinics in Peru.

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Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle 98109, USA.



To assess low abdominal pain, yellow vaginal discharge, other symptoms and signs, and demographic and behavioural variables as predictors for cervical or vaginal infection.


A cross sectional study of women attending gynaecology and family planning clinics in Lima, Peru was undertaken. 630 consecutive eligible female patients with chief or elicited complaints of yellow vaginal discharge, low abdominal pain, or both were interviewed and examined, together with a comparable reference group without these complaints. Vaginal specimens were tested for trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis. Endocervical specimens were tested for Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis using the ligase chain reaction.


Infections found included chlamydial infection in 69 women (10.9%), gonorrhoea in 10 (1.6%), and either infection in 77 (12.2%); trichomoniasis in 46 (7.3%), bacterial vaginosis in 189 (30%), and either infection in 209 (33.2%). Cervical infection with C trachomatis and/or N gonorrhoeae was independently associated with history of a new sex partner within the last 3 months, more than one sex partner within the last year, use of condoms never or in less than 50% of sex acts, history of sex partner with STD within the last year; with symptoms of persistent low abdominal pain and of yellow vaginal discharge; and with signs of profuse and yellow vaginal discharge, cervical ectopy, easily induced endocervical bleeding, or brown cervical secretion. Using these findings, an algorithm was created that had a positive predictive value (PPV) of 36% for cervical infection among women reporting chief or elicited complaint of this abnormal vaginal discharge and a PPV of 25% among those without a complaint. A chief complaint of yellow vaginal discharge had a PPV of 50% for trichomoniasis or bacterial vaginosis. Among women without a chief complaint of yellow vaginal discharge, clinical findings of yellow vaginal discharge had a PPV of 55%.


Where economic and technical constraints preclude testing, clinical findings and risk assessment are helpful in detecting vaginal and cervical infections. Several demographic, behavioural, clinical, and laboratory variables were predictive of infection in this population.

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