Given the potentially causal association of female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) with HIV-1 infection, improved diagnostics are urgently needed to scale-up FGS surveillance. The BILHIV (bilharzia and HIV) study assessed the performance of home-based self-collection methods (cervical and vaginal swabs) compared to cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) for the detection of Schistosoma DNA by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Between January and August 2018, a consecutive series of female participants from the Population-Cohort of the previous HIV prevention trial HPTN 071 (PopART), resident in Livingstone, Zambia were invited to take part in BILHIV if they were 18–31 years old, non-pregnant and sexually active. Genital self-collected swabs and a urine specimen were obtained and a questionnaire completed at home visits. CVL was obtained at clinic follow-up.
603 women self-collected genital swabs. Of these, 527 women had CVL performed by a mid-wife during clinic follow-up. Schistosoma DNA was more frequently detected in genital self-collected specimens (24/603, 4.0%) compared to CVL (14/527, 2.7%). Overall, 5.0% (30/603) women had female genital schistosomiasis, defined as a positive PCR by any genital sampling method (cervical swab PCR, vaginal swab PCR, or CVL PCR) and 95% (573/603) did not have a positive genital PCR. The sensitivity of any positive genital self-collected swab against CVL was 57.1% (95% CI 28.9–82.3%), specificity 97.3% (95.5–98.5%). In a subset of participants with active schistosome infection, determined by detectable urine Circulating Anodic Antigen (CAA) (15.1%, 91/601), positive PCR (4.3%, 26/601), or positive microscopy (5.5%, 33/603), the sensitivity of any positive self-collected specimen against CVL was 88.9% (51.8–99.7%).
Female Genital schistosomiasis (FGS) is a neglected and disabling disease that results when eggs from the waterborne parasite Schistosoma haematobium are trapped in the human reproductive tract. Current female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) diagnostic strategies are limited because they require expertise and equipment that may not be readily available in low income settings. Improved and accessible diagnostics are urgently needed to scale-up FGS surveillance. This is especially important as FGS has been associated with HIV-1 infection. The BILHIV (bilharzia and HIV) study assessed the performance of home-based self-collection methods (cervical and vaginal swabs) compared with a clinic-based cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) performed by a medical professional. Both methods used real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect Schistosoma DNA. We found that, in a field setting, self-collected genital and cervical swabs increased the overall number of PCR-based FGS diagnoses, compared with clinically collected CVL. We report the sensitivity of self-collected swabs for the diagnosis of FGS, compared with CVL. We found that the sensitivity of self-collected genital swabs was high in a subset of women with active schistosome infection. We suggest that home-based self-sampling may represent a scalable community-based sampling platform for FGS community-based diagnosis in endemic resource limited settings.