Screening and Treatment to Prevent Sequelae in Women with Chlamydia trachomatis Genital Infection: How Much Do We Know?

  • Gottlieb S
  • Berman S
  • Low N
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Abstract

Background. An important question for chlamydia control programs is the extent to which finding and treating prevalent, asymptomatic Chlamydia trachomatis genital infection reduces reproductive sequelae in infected women. Methods. We reviewed the literature to critically evaluate evidence on the effect of chlamydia screening on development of sequelae in infected women. Results. Two randomized controlled trials of 1-time screening for chlamydial infection—in a Seattle-area health maintenance organization and a Danish school district—revealed that screening was associated with an ∼50% reduction in the incidence of pelvic inflammatory disease over the following year. However, both of these trials had methodological issues that may have affected the magnitude of observed screening benefits and might limit generalizability to other populations. A large, nonrandomized cohort of chlamydia screening among US Army recruits, although limited by lack of outpatient data, did not find a benefit of similar magnitude to the randomized trials. Methodological limitations restrict valid conclusions about individual benefits of screening using data from historical cohorts and ecological studies. We identified no trials directly evaluating the effect of chlamydia screening on subclinical tubal inflammation or damage, ectopic pregnancy, or tubal factor infertility and no studies addressing the effects of 11 round of screening, the optimal frequency of screening, or the benefits of screening for repeat infections. Conclusions. Additional studies of the effectiveness of chlamydia screening would be valuable; feasible study designs may depend on the degree to which screening programs are already established. In addition, better natural history data on the timing of tubal inflammation and damage after C. trachomatis infection and development of more accurate, noninvasive tools to assess chlamydial sequelae are essential to informing chlamydia control efforts. Routine screening for asymptomatic Chlamydia tra-chomatis genital infection among young, sexually active women is a fundamental component of chlamydia con-trol in many countries [1, 2]. Thus, a critical question for chlamydia control programs is the extent to which finding and treating prevalent, asymptomatic

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Authors

  • Sami L Gottlieb

  • Stuart M Berman

  • Nicola Low

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