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Trichomonas vaginalis (TV)


What is Trichomonas vaginalis?

Trichomonas vaginalis is also called trichomoniasis or shortened to TV. It's a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a tiny parasite.

How is TV passed on?

TV is almost always passed from one person to another during sex. In women, the infection can live inside the cells of the vagina and in the urethra. In men, it can be found in the urethra. The infection can spread if you have vaginal sex or possibly by sharing sex toys. It's possible for a pregnant woman to pass the infection to her baby at birth.

Signs and symptoms

Up to half of infected women and men will have no symptoms. Signs and symptoms can show up three to 21 days after coming into contact with TV.

Women might notice:

  • an unusual vaginal discharge - this may be thin, frothy and have a musty or fishy smell
  • soreness, inflammation and itching in and around the vagina
  • pain when passing urine
  • pain when having sex
  • lower abdominal tenderness

Men might notice:

  • a discharge from the penis - this may be thin and whitish
  • pain, or a burning sensation, when passing urine
  • inflammation of the glands or foreskin (less common)

Tests and treatment

You can have a test as soon as you think you have been in contact with TV. Testing is free on the NHS from general practice, genitourinary medicine clinics or sexual health clinics.

Testing will involve using a swab (like a cotton bud) to take a sample of cells from the vagina, the genital area and the urethra. Sometimes TV will be found during a routine cervical screening test.

Treatment is simple and involves taking antibiotic tablets, either as a single dose or a longer course (up to a week). Some antibiotics used to treat TV interact with the combined oral contraceptive pill or contraceptive patch making them less effective, so check this with the doctor or nurse. Also tell them if you are you pregnant, or think you might be, or if you are breastfeeding. This might affect the type of antibiotic you are given.

To avoid reinfection, any sexual partners should be treated too.

What happens if TV is not treated?

For most people TV will not go away without treatment, so the symptoms will remain.

Where can I go for help and advice?

You can go to your general practice, a genitourinary medicine clinic or a sexual health clinic. All services are confidential.

You can call fpa's helpline on 0845 122 8690.


Article originally published by the BBC based on information from the FPA