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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 42 Article 2
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 42, 16 October 2003

Citation style for this article: Cronin M, Domegan L. Incidence of STIs continues to rise in the Republic of Ireland. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(42):pii=2310. Available online:

Incidence of STIs continues to rise in the Republic of Ireland

Mary Cronin ( and Lisa Domegan, National Disease Surveillance Centre, Dublin, Ireland

The National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) has this month published the Annual STI Report 2001 (1), which reports that the total number of notified sexually transmitted infections (STIs) increased by 9.4% from 2000 to 2001. The highest increases recorded during 2001, compared with 2000, were for syphilis (507%), infectious hepatitis B (160%), genital herpes simplex (23%), Chlamydia trachomatis (23%), and gonorrhoea (20%). The three most commonly notified STIs in 2001 were anogenital warts, Chlamydia trachomatis and non-specific urethritis.

Fourteen sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are currently legally notifiable in Ireland: anogenital warts, candidiasis, chancroid, Chlamydia trachomatis, genital herpes, gonorrhoea, Granuloma inguinale, infectious hepatitis B, Lymphogranuloma venereum, Molluscum contagiosum, non-specific urethritis, Pediculosis pubis, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. Data on STIs are collected mainly from STI clinics in the health boards. Aggregate data on the number of notified STIs from Departments of Public Health are collated quarterly.

The increase in STIs in Ireland is likely to be associated with increased unsafe sexual behaviour, although the rise in genital chlamydia infections may also reflect increased testing for this infection. Improved acceptability of STI clinic services and greater public and professional awareness of certain STIs may have also contributed to the increases.

The very large increase in reported cases of syphilis was seen mainly in MSM in Dublin. An enhanced surveillance system was implemented by the Irish National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) to capture data on all syphilis cases from January 2000 (2). There were 593 syphilis cases reported nationally in the Republic of Ireland between January 2000 and December 2002 through the enhanced syphilis surveillance system, compared with only six cases in 1999. Four hundred and eight cases (69%), for which syphilis stage was known, were of early or infectious syphilis. Of these, 313 (76.7%) were in men who have sex with men (MSM) (265 homosexual and 48 bisexual). Concurrent STIs increase the transmission probability for HIV infection (3) and it is alarming that 73 of the 408 early syphilis cases (18%) were reported to be HIV positive. Interventions to control the outbreak were targeted primarily at MSM in Dublin (4).

An NDSC report in 2001, undertaken at the request of the Department of Health and Children, recommends the institution of a new national system for surveillance of infectious diseases of public health importance in Ireland (5). The report recommends that there should be four categories of notifier: general practitioners, hospital clinicians, laboratory directors, and public health doctors, and that each of these categories of notifier would be required to notify a specific subset of diseases contained in the list of notifiable diseases. The report recommends the removal of candidiasis, Molluscum contagiosum and Pediculosis pubis from the list of notifiable STIs in Ireland. In addition, the report recommends that the system for STI surveillance should change from collection of clinic-based aggregate data, on a quarterly basis, to the collection of timely, non-aggregate geographic based data. A subcommittee of the scientific advisory committee of the NDSC is currently undertaking a review of the surveillance of STIs in Ireland.

  1. Domegan L, Jackson S, Cronin M. Report on Sexually Transmitted Infections Quarter 4 2001 & 2001 Annual Report. Dublin: National Disease Surveillance Centre, October 2003. (
  2. Domegan l, Cronin M, et al. Enhanced surveillance of Syphilis. Epi-Insight 2002; 3(7): 2-3. (
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV prevention through early detection and treatment of other sexually transmitted diseases--United States recommendations of the advisory committee for HIV and STD prevention. MMWR Morbid Mortal Wkly Rep 1998; 47(RR-12): 1-24: recommendations and reports. (
  4. Hopkins S, Coleman C, et al. Interventions in a syphilis outbreak. Epi-Insight 2002; 3(8): 2-3. (
  5. NDSC. Review of Notifiable Disease and the Process of Notification. Dublin: National Disease Surveillance Centre, February 2001.

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