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While trichomoniasis is usually transmitted sexually, it may be contracted in contact with damp or moist objects such as towels, wet clothing, or a toilet seat, if the infected genital area gets in contact with these objects.

Trichomonas is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by a single-cell parasitic protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis, which was first discovered in 1836. It is more prominent in women but can appear in men as well.

Trichomonas vaginalis

Trichomonas vaginalis is a very common parasite. They are usually pyriform in shape, although they may take an amoeboid shape after attaching to the vaginal epithelium. The size can vary but most commonly the individual organism is slightly larger than a white blood cell, which means about 9X7 μm. Four flagella-whip-like parts project from the anterior portion of the cell. Generally, it infects the squamous epithelium of the genital tract. Incubation time is usually between 4 and 28 days.


Trichomoniasis is primarily a sexually transmitted disease, and it can be spread during:

  • anal sex
  • mutual masturbation when bodily fluids from one partner come in contact with the other's genitals
  • oral sex
  • vaginal sex

Since Trichomonas can survive for some hours outside the body it can also be can be transmitted by sharing:

  • bodily fluids
  • contaminated bedding
  • damp towels
  • sheets
  • toilet seats

Incidence of the condition

Trichomoniasis is the most common non-viral sexually transmitted disease in the world. About 5 million Americans develop trichomoniasis every year. It has been found in 5%-15% of women at gynecology clinics and 50%-75% of prostitutes in the United States. Trichomoniasis is present in the sexually active population of all ages. According to the World Health Organization's annual estimates, there are 7.4 million trichomoniasis cases each year in the United States, with over 180 million cases reported worldwide.

It is often diagnosed in patients who are already infected with other STDs such as gonorrhea or non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU). There is a significant difference in racial distribution of the infection:

  • Caucasian, 1.2%;
  • Latino, 2.1%;
  • African American, 6.9%;
  • Asian, 1.8%;
  • Native American, 4.1%.
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