A nifty new test to detect chlamydia

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Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 2.43.46 PMOne of the limitations of antibiotic treatment is that sometimes it s not clear what organism you are treating. This is primarily because it takes about two days for the bacterial sample to grow, which can limit doctors to empirical methods, or a two-day wait until the identification is complete.

For chlamydia the most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease (HPV infection, which is viral, is the most common) the culture method isn t useful (it takes 5-7 days), but the more rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test has substantial limitations. It is labor intensive, and can only be performed in hospitals that have expensive equipment and trained technicians.

Yet, this may now change. Researchers have reported in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics a new test that puts the others to shame a 20 minute test that can be performed in a doctor s office (point of care), and is also extremely accurate.

While point of care (POC) tests for chlamydia do exist, they are notoriously unreliable detecting the infection only between 10 and 40 percent of the time.

The new assay, called NAAT (and no, you don t want to know what that stands for), detected 83 percent of infections, with an accuracy that was reported to be 100 percent, although the sample size (70 patients) was small. All that is required is a urine sample.

One of the authors, Ãlo Langel, PhD, of the University of Tartu in Estonia and Stockholm University in Sweden, highlights the differences between old and new tests: "The assay enables highly specific [chlamydia] detection with sensitivity levels significantly improved compared to currently available [chlamydia] POC assays."

Although chlamydia is usually less serious than other sexually transmitted infections, it is not benign. The infection can cause urethritis in men and serious pelvic inflammatory disease in women. The infection is one of the leading causes of female infertility and also increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy a life-threatening disorder.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross says, Anytime a new test results in a faster and more accurate diagnosis it is a win-win situation. Patients who need treatment will be more likely to get it and those who don t will not have to take antibiotics unnecessarily.