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Gay bowel syndrome’: relic or real (and returning) phenomenon?

Cooper, Farhada; Barber, Tristanb

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: February 2014 - Volume 27 - Issue 1 - p 84–89
doi: 10.1097/QCO.0000000000000032

Purpose of review This article aims to review the term ‘gay bowel syndrome’, including the recent research looking at increased rates of bowel infections in men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly in light of the recent Shigella outbreaks in MSM in London and New York, and considers whether ‘gay bowel syndrome’ is a syndrome that really exists and is worthy of further research and specific treatment, or whether the term continues to be obsolete and not useful.

Recent findings Little or no recent research exists around the concept of a specific syndrome affecting the bowels of MSM. Rather, there seems to be a clustering of diseases in certain high-risk groups, especially those in urban areas with multiple sexual partners, recreational drug use, and possible concomitant HIV infection.

Summary All healthcare practitioners (including non-sexual health/HIV specialists) need to consider careful and thorough history taking (including sexual history) to identify those at risk.

aChelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust

bHomerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK

Correspondence to Tristan Barber, Clifden Centre, Homerton University Hospital, Homerton Row, London, E9 6SR, UK. Tel: +44 20 8510 5591; fax: +44 20 8510 7978; e-mail:

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.