What STDs can a Pap smear detect?

Updated July 19, 2017

Pap (Papanicolaou) smears test cells for indications of cervical cancer, but a few sexually transmitted diseases may also be detected in abnormal smear results. Abnormal results are often unclear and require further testing to determine the cause.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Since HPV is the virus linked to cervical cancer, HPV may be detected through a smear test. Pap smears can detect low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions, which are slight cell changes caused by HPV infection.


Trichomoniasis is the most common curable STD, and one of the most likely to be detected by a Pap smear. Smear tests show 60 per cent accuracy for detecting Trichomoniasis.


Pap smears may detect Chlamydia if results show inflammation of the cells or if the cervix is noticeably inflamed.


In rare cases, Pap smear results can reveal cells that have been damaged by a herpes infection. Visible sores from a herpes outbreak can be easily identified during physical exams.


Pap smears are not a reliable method for detecting STDs. Ask your GP or practice nurse for STD testing to ensure accurate results. This may involve a swab of cervical cells or a blood test.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

S.E. Brinamon has been writing web articles since 2008, specializing in topics such as women's health, fitness and ethical consumption. She holds an English degree from University of New Mexico and a 200-hour yoga certification.