Gay and bi men in the UK have been warned about an aggressive form of Chlamydia that is becoming increasingly widespread within the gay community.
HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) said that LGV (lymphogranuloma venereum) is a serious sexually transmitted infection (STI) that attacks the lymph nodes.
It has been spreading among gay and bisexual men since arriving in the UK around 2004. In 2009, 193 men were diagnosed with the infection and, in the first six months of 2010 alone, 190 men have been diagnosed, many of whom also have HIV.
The majority of men infected with LGV develop symptoms within a few weeks, and nearly all have been infected rectally. Symptoms can include bleeding and discharge from the rectum, painful inflammation (called ‘proctitis’), and painful anal abscesses or ulcers.
Left untreated, LGV can cause lasting damage. The inside of the rectum can become so seriously affected it might require surgery.
LGV bacteria are passed on through unprotected anal sex, fisting or on sex toys shared between partners.
The organisation said that the best way gay men can guard against the infection is to use condoms for anal sex and latex gloves for fisting. Men should avoid sharing sex toys, or put a fresh condom on them between each new partner.
Any men experiencing anal discomfort have been urged to consult a sexual health clinic, rather than their GP who may misdiagnose the problem.
As long as LGV is treated soon enough, it can be cured with three weeks of antibiotics, said THT.