New research published on bmj.com says that annual chlamydia screening may not protect women from pelvic inflammatory disease.
The study, which included 2529 sexually active female students between the ages of 16 to 27 from 20 universities and further education colleges in London, concluded that most cases of pelvic inflammatory disease occurred in females who did not have chlamydia infection when they were screened, suggesting they may have become infected later.
Chlamydia often has no symptoms and remains undiagnosed. This is concerning because untreated chlamydia in women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can result in infertility, chronic pelvic pain and ectopic pregnancy.
In the study, which was led by Dr Pippa Oakeshott from St George's, University of London, participants completed questionnaires, provided vaginal swabs and agreed to a follow-up after one year.
The results showed that 68 out of 1254 women who were screened immediately had chlamydia and 75 out of the 1265 screened a year later tested positive.
Fifteen of the immediately screened women went on to develop PID versus 23 of the women tested after a year. The findings also suggest an 80 percent reduction in the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease in women treated for chlamydial infection.
However, most cases of PID (79 percent) occurred in women who tested negative for chlamydia when they were initially tested, says the study.