A new test for diagnosing Chlamydia is quicker and more cost-effective than current tests, and has the potential to reduce complications and transmission to sexual partners, finds a study published on bmj.com today.
Chlamydia trachomatis infection is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial infection in the world but often has no symptoms. Yet, if left undiagnosed and untreated, it can result in complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility.
Developed countries, including the UK, have national screening programmes in place which tend to use nucleic acid amplification tests to diagnose infection. These tests are more sensitive than the currently available rapid tests, but require costly machines in addition to trained staff and results can take up to two weeks.
In contrast, screening programmes for Chlamydia are almost nonexistent in the developing world.
So researchers assessed the performance of a new Chlamydia Rapid Test compared to the currently available nucleic acid based tests (polymerase chain reaction and strand displacement amplification tests).
Over 1,300 women aged between 16 and 54 years attending one of three clinics in the UK were included in the study.
An information sheet was given to each participant explaining how to collect the vaginal swabs. Swabs and urine cups were then provided and each participant was surveyed about sample collection methods and preferences.
The new Chlamydia Rapid Test achieved relatively high diagnostic sensitivity (83.5%) compared with the more complicated nucleic acid based tests. It also provided results within 30 minutes, allowing all positive individuals to be offered treatment while still at the clinic.
This, say the authors, could reduce the risk of complications and help to prevent onward transmission by sexual contact that occurs during the interval between standard testing and treatment.
It would also be valuable in developing countries, especially those with high risk populations such as female sex workers.
Furthermore, the survey results revealed that 99.4% of young adults participating in the survey found the instructions easy to understand and 95.9% felt comfortable collecting their own vaginal swab specimens. They also showed that 75% of women were willing to wait between 30 minutes and two hours for their results, but only 7% were willing to wait more than one day.
The performance of this new Chlamydia Rapid Test indicates that it would be an effective same-day diagnostic and screening tool for Chlamydia infection of women, conclude the authors. It could also provide a simple and reliable alternative to nucleic acid amplification tests within Chlamydia screening programmes.