Dagens Nyheter reports that three cases of Lymphogranuloma venereum, or LGV, have so far been diagnosed in Stockholm.
The disease is caused by a strain of chlamydia and is most common in parts of Asia, Africa and South and Central America. In Europe and North America the bacterial infection has started to spread between gay men, with the Netherlands and France both reporting around 150 cases each, and the UK around 30 cases.
Early symptoms of the disease include genital ulcers and tender glands around the groin. LGV also causes rectal or anal inflammation, scarring and narrowing.
Those diagnosed in Sweden had been suffering with pain and bleeding for some time before being diagnosed.
The disease is treated by a three-week course of antibiotics. Left untreated, it can cause lasting damage to lymph glands and lymph ducts. This can lead to tissues in the penis and legs of the infected person becoming deformed, and chronic scarring can form around the anus.
Most of those diagnosed with LGV in the Netherlands were gay men, and were typically HIV positive and had had anonymous sex with many partners, making it difficult to trace other men that might be infected.
The disease has an incubation period of one month, meaning that infected people might have time to have sex with many other people before they experience symptoms.
The Venhälsan gay sexual health clinic in Stockholm now routinely tests all men with rectal chlamydia for LGV. The clinic intends to analyze the results of the tests to see if there has been a more widespread outbreak.
To find out whether a person has LGV, they must first be tested for regular chlamydia, then the bacteria must be analyzed to determine whether they belong to the LGV sub-type. But many LGV symptoms can be mistaken for other rectal infections, and it is possible that many who carry the LGV bacteria show no symptoms at all.
“Normal chlamydia only displays symptoms in half of all cases,” Sven Grützmeier, chief physician at Venhälsan, told DN.
“Ths could also be the case for LGV, but hopefully future research will show exactly how large a proportion of cases are symptom-free.”