CDC Warns Doctors About Rare STD Spreading Among Men Who Have Sex With Men in Europe; Disease Could Threaten U.S.CDC officials have warned doctors about a rare sexually transmitted disease that has been spreading among men who have unprotected sex with men in the Netherlands and other European countries and could appear among such men in the United States, the New York Times reports (Tuller, New York Times, 11/9). Lymphogranuloma venereum -- LGV -- has been diagnosed in about 90 MSM in the Netherlands, and other cases have been reported in Belgium, France, Sweden and Britain, Reuters/CNN.com reports. The infection is caused by a strain of the bacteria that causes chlamydia and can be cured with antibiotics. LGV is associated with genital ulcers and flu-like symptoms and can cause severe gastrointestinal distress, according to Reuters/CNN.com (Reuters/CNN.com, 10/29). Because most U.S. doctors have never seen a case of LGV, CDC officials are worried that physicians might incorrectly diagnose the symptoms and fail to provide necessary treatment, which could cause the STD to become worse, according to the Times. LGV usually is seen in developing countries -- such as those in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America -- and most often is diagnosed among heterosexuals, in whom it causes genital lesions and swelling in the lymph glands in the groin. Men who experience rectal symptoms -- including bleeding of the rectum and colon -- most likely contract LGV through unprotected anal intercourse, according to Dr. Stuart Berman, chief of the epidemiology and surveillance branch in the STD prevention division at CDC. Health professionals also are concerned because the rectal inflammation and ulceration sometimes caused by LGV could increase the risk of transmitting or contracting HIV and other bloodborne diseases (New York Times, 11/9).
Berman described the outbreaks in Europe as an "early warning," saying, "We expect it's a question of time before we see cases appearing here," PlanetOut/Yahoo! News reports. According to Dr. Ken Haller, a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, LGV symptoms can appear three to 30 days after transmission but can remain undetected because lesions might occur inside the urethra or the rectum. Although most cases of LGV are sexually transmitted, the virus also can be transmitted through kissing, Haller said (Curtis, PlanetOut/Yahoo! News, 10/29). The first outbreak was recorded in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in April, 2003, according to the Oct. 29 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The Netherlands typically has fewer than five cases of the disease annually, but as of September, 92 cases of LGV had been confirmed in the country in the preceding 17 months among MSM, leading to alerts in Europe and the United States (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 10/29).