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Sexually transmitted infections and transmission

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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are spread primarily through person-to-person sexual contact. There are more than 30 different sexually transmissible bacteria, viruses and parasites. Several, in particular HIV and syphilis, can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth, and through blood products and tissue transfer.

Some of the commonest sexually transmitted pathogens can be divided into those caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Sexual Health Guide - STI couple

Bacterial infections

  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae (causes gonorrhoea or gonococcal infection)

  • Chlamydia trachomatis (causes chlamydial infections)

  • Treponema pallidum (causes syphilis)

  • Haemophilus ducreyi (causes chancroid) 

  • Klebsiella granulomatis (previously known as Calymmatobacterium granulomatis causes granuloma inguinale or donovanosis).


Viral infections

  • Human immunodeficiency virus (causes AIDS)

  • Herpes simplex virus type 2 (causes genital herpes)

  • Human papillomavirus (causes genital warts and certain subtypes lead to cervical cancer in women)

  • Hepatitis B virus (causes hepatitis and chronic cases may lead to cancer of the liver)

  • Cytomegalovirus (causes inflammation in a number of organs including the brain, the eye, and the bowel).


Parasitic organisms

  •  Trichomonas vaginalis (causes vaginal trichomoniasis)



  • Candida albicans (causes vulvovaginitis in women; inflammation of the glans penis (balanitis) and foreskin in men).


In this guide




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