BACKGROUND: Men who have sex with men (MSM) using preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) are at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Therefore, PrEP services should include regular screening for Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG) at urethra, anorectum, and pharynx. However, financial and logistic challenges arise in low-resource settings. We assessed a new STI sample pooling method using the GeneXpert instrument among MSM initiating PrEP in West Africa.
METHODS: Urine, anorectal, and pharyngeal samples were pooled per individual for analysis. In case of an invalid result only (strategy 1) or a positive result of the pool (strategy 2), samples were analyzed individually to identify the infection's biological location. The results of 2 different pooling strategies were compared against the individual results obtained by a criterion standard.
RESULTS: We found a prevalence of 14.5% for chlamydia and 11.5% for gonorrhea, with a predominance of infections being extragenital (77.6%). The majority of infections were asymptomatic (88.2%). The pooling strategy 1, had a sensitivity, specificity and agreement for CT of 95.4%, 98.7%, and 0.93, respectively; and 92.3%, 99.2%, and 0.93 for pooling strategy 2. For NG, these figures were 88.9%, 97.7%, and 0.85 for strategy 1, and 88.9%, 96.7%, and 0.81 for strategy 2.
CONCLUSIONS: West African MSM have a high prevalence of extragenital and asymptomatic STIs. The GeneXpert method provides an opportunity to move from syndromic toward etiological STI diagnosis in low-income countries, as the platform is available in African countries for tuberculosis testing. Pooling will reduce costs of triple site testing.