Objectives: The enhanced sensitivity of nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) provides an opportunity for estimating the prevalence of untreated Chlamydia trachomatis infections. The transmissibility and public health significance of some NAAT-identified infections are, however, not known.
Methods: Adults attending an urban emergency department provided specimens for C trachomatis screening using NAAT. Participants testing positive were offered follow-up including re-testing for C trachomatis using NAAT and traditional methods, eg culture and direct fluorescent antibody, and were treated. Partners were offered identical evaluation and treatment. Overall, 90 C trachomatis-positive participants had one or more sexual partners enrolled.
Results: Evidence of transmission, as defined by infection concordance between partnerships, was observed among 75% of partners of index cases testing positive by both NAAT and traditional assay but only 45% of partners of index cases testing positive by NAAT only (prevalence ratio 1.7, 95% CI 1.1 to 2.5). Among index participants returning for follow-up, 17% had no evidence of C trachomatis infection by NAAT or traditional assay (median follow-up three weeks).
Conclusions: A substantial proportion of positive NAAT results for chlamydial infection may be of lower transmissibility and may not persist after a short follow-up. The long-term health effects of some positive NAAT are uncertain.
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