August 25, 2005
Providing male STD patients a dose of antibiotics to bring to their partners is more effective than the standard method of instructing the patients to tell their partners to see a doctor for testing and treatment, according to a new study.
The practice of patient-delivered partner treatment is already common in Europe but has been slow to catch on in the United States, said lead author Dr. Patricia Kissinger of Tulane University in New Orleans. Some US doctors worry about their legal liability if a patient's partner were to have treatment side effects. But Kissinger and colleagues found there is little risk of side effects from the single-dose antibiotics used to treat chlamydia and gonorrhea -- two common bacterial STDs.
The researchers studied 977 men who received treatment for chlamydia or gonorrhea at a public STD clinic in New Orleans. Patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Men in one group were instructed to tell their partners to seek testing and treatment; a second group also received information cards to give to their partners; and a third group were given a single dose of antibiotics to give to up to four partners.
For women, infection with gonorrhea or chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility, making it essential to track and treat an infected man's female partners.
Though patient-delivered partner treatment is not appropriate for all STDs, the current study and similar ones make it "pretty obvious" that take-home antibiotics are an effective way to ensure treatment for gonorrhea and chlamydia, said Kissinger. However, in the case of syphilis, which is linked to an increased risk of HIV, public health officials contact patients' partners to notify them of their risk.
The full study, "Patient-Delivered Partner Treatment for Male Urethritis: A Randomized, Controlled Trial," was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases (2005;41:623-629).
08.17.2005; Amy Norton
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