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Sex Transm Infect. 1998 Jun;74 Suppl 1:S139-46.

Risk scores to detect cervical infections in urban antenatal clinic attenders in Mwanza, Tanzania.

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African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF), Mwanza, Tanzania.



Detection and management of gonococcal and/or chlamydial infections in women is a challenge, particularly in developing countries where laboratory tests are not always available. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has developed a risk assessment approach to identify cervical infections among women complaining of vaginal discharge. We have evaluated this approach as a screening strategy among women attending an urban antenatal clinic (ANC) in Tanzania.


(i) To measure the prevalence of pathogens associated with sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and reproductive tract infections (RTI) in an urban population of ANC attenders in Tanzania; (ii) to examine characteristics of pregnant women associated with cervical infections; and (iii) to evaluate the performance of a WHO risk assessment algorithm and alternative risk scores for the detection of cervical infections in pregnant women.


A systematic sample of 660 pregnant women reporting for routine antenatal care at an urban clinic was enrolled. Women were interviewed by a nurse, who applied the WHO risk score. They were referred to a study room for interview about sociodemographic and behavioural factors, examination, and sampling for Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, Trichomonas vaginalis, Candida albicans, and bacterial vaginosis. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), and theoretical cost per true case treated were estimated for the diagnosis of cervical infection with N gonorrhoeae and/or C trachomatis for the WHO and other risk scores.


The prevalence of any vaginal or cervical infection was 68%. Prevalence rates of various pathogens were: C albicans 39%, T vaginalis 16%, bacterial vaginosis 24%, N gonorrhoeae 2.3%, C trachomatis 5.9%, any cervical infection (N gonorrhoeae and/or C trachomatis) 7.4%. The WHO score identified only five of 49 women with N gonorrhoeae and/or C trachomatis (sensitivity 10.2%). The specificity and the PPV were 92% and 9.8% respectively. The theoretical cost per true case treated on the basis of the WHO score was over $18. Several risk factors were associated with cervical infection on univariate analysis, but only six remained significant at the 10% level after multivariate analysis. These were: never use of contraceptives (OR 3.09), more than one partner in the past 3 months (OR 3.32), partner with symptoms of genital discharge syndrome (GDS) (OR 7.55), frothy vaginal discharge (OR 1.88), 5-19 polymorphonucleocytes per high power field on cervical smear (OR 3.28), or more than 20 polymorphonucleocytes per high power field (OR 16.08), and wet preparation showing evidence of T vaginalis infection (OR 1.96). Scores based on these variables failed to attain high sensitivities or PPVs (all below 40%) although the costs per true case treated were cheaper than for the WHO score.


Risk assessment for the screening and management of N gonorrhoeae and/or C trachomatis among women presenting at routine antenatal services appears feasible and acceptable, but of limited value in this population because of its low sensitivity. The optimal risk score may vary considerably from one place to another. The quest for simple, cheap, and reliable tests to diagnose N gonorrhoeae and C trachomatis infections still remains a high priority on the international STD technology research agenda.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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