Introduction Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) load is suggested to be higher in symptomatic patients. This may have implications for screening policies in target groups that differ in their percentage of symptomatic patients. Here, we hypothesise that population-based screening yields lower CT loads as it is thought to include mainly asymptomatic patients. The objective of this study was to compare the CT load between 2 cohorts of CT positive patients (1) those attending a sexually transmitted infection (STI)-clinic and (2) those participating in the Dutch population-based screening (CSI), thereby taking into account symptoms as well as other determinants relevant for bacterial load.
Methods The CT load from 1286 CT-positive participants from the CSI-cohort (59.8%; 562 women) and STI-clinic in South Limburg (40.2%; 312 women) was determined using real-time qPCR. CT load was based on the copy number of the major outer-membrane protein (MOMP) gene normalised per copy number of eukaryotic cells (HLA gene).
Results The overall mean logarithmic bacterial load was 1.50 MOMP/HLA for women and 1.15 MOMP/HLA for men. For both sexes there was no independent association between cohort type and mean logarithmic CT load (women, p = 0.86; men p = 0.22). Symptoms were independently associated with load. Load was higher in women reporting dysuria (1.65 MOMP/HLA) than in women without dysuria (1.46 MOMP/HLA) (p = 0.027). For men, load was higher when reporting frequent urination (1.56 MOMP/HLA) than without this symptom (1.10 MOMP/HLA), (p = 0.015). Contrary to the expectation, these symptoms were reported in the CSI cohort more often than in the STI clinic cohort (women: 26.8 and 13.6%; men 16.5 and 7.3%). None of the other determinants were found to be associated with load.
Conclusion Our results indicate a similar bacterial C. trachomatis load in the general population and in a high-risk population, highlighting the relevance of population-based CT-screening.
- bacterial load
- Chlamydia trachomatis
- clinical symptoms