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Thursday, 31 March 2005 10:34
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Late developers vulnerable to high risk sexually transmitted diseases
Research by the University of Manchester have published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections that late developers may be more susceptible to high risk sexually transmitted infections than sexually precocious younger teens.

They claim that sexual maturity, rather than age at first sex, seems to be a critical factor.

The researchers studied 127 young women from three sexual health clinics. All of them had started having periods within the preceding five years or were aged 17 years and under.

The young women were screened for genital infections, including chlamydia, wart virus (human papillomavirus or HPV), and bacterial vaginosis.

Almost two thirds of the young women tested positive for HPV, half of which were the high risk types associated with the development of cervical cancer. Over half of those infected with HPV had at least one other infection.

Around one in four tested positive for chlamydia, which is associated with infertility.

Specific behaviour patterns had specific effects on particular infections.

A recent new partner or use of a condom was associated with a lower risk of chlamydial infection, while the use of emergency contraception doubled the risk. Sex during a period also increased the risk of bacterial vaginosis. Smoking conferred protection against HPV.

But sexual maturity had a significant impact on all three infections.

Researcher Dr Loretta Brabin told the BBC News website: "Our findings dispel the myth that vulnerability to sexual infection is all about the age of onset of sexual activity and high risk behaviour”.

But she stressed no young woman should indulge in risky sexual behaviour - particularly as this research suggested they were more likely to contract multiple sexual infections.

Dr Simon Barton, of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection were influenced by a number of factors, including a person's genetic make up and whether they already had other infections.

He added it was "important that young women entering a new relationship do emphasise the use of contraception".


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