Early and rapid diagnosis of STDs increases the chance to limit effects of the disease. Left untreated, STDs, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, genital herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV), can lead to devastating and sometimes long-term complications. These complications include blindness, bone deformities, brain damage, cancer, heart disease, infertility, birth defects, mental retardation, and even death.
Healthcare providers diagnose STDs through physical examination, blood tests, or swabbed cultures. Diagnosis of STDs by self-obtained vaginal swabs was the focus of an NIAID-supported workshop. However, many people infected by an STD have little or no symptoms of the infection. NIAID scientists are conducting immunology studies to address why many STDs in people are asymptomatic. These studies may also uncover how infections mutation contributes to STD drug resistance and the processes associated with repeat infection and coinfection (for example, syphilis and HIV/AIDS).