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Hopkins Researchers Urge Regular Chlamydia Testing For All Sexually Active Teenage Women

All sexually active adolescent females should be tested by family doctors not once but twice a year for chlamydia infection, a significant preventable cause of pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women in the United States, say Johns Hopkins researchers.

Because the sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis usually presents no obvious symptoms, the researchers say failure to test and treat with antibiotics during routine checkups is contributing to "the most important preventable cause" of infertility.

"Current guidelines for adolescent primary care call for yearly screenings, but that's not enough," says Gale Burstein, M.D., M.P.H. "Regardless of whether they've previously had sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, or whether they've had a new sex partner or use condoms, these sexually active teenagers need more frequent testing."

In a study of 3,202 sexually active females age 12 through 19 who visited family planning, STD or school-based clinics in Baltimore, Md., 14-year-olds had the highest rate of infection with C. trachomatis.

Although most of the individuals were African-American, other, smaller studies have shown that white teenage females also have high rates of chlamydia, according to Burstein. "Infection rates among this group are generally above 5 to 10 percent in the populations that have been studied," she says.

"We couldn't predict which females in our study would be at increased risk for chlamydia just because they didn't use condoms consistently, or because they had a new sexual partner, or even because they previously had a sexually transmitted disease," says Burstein, a research fellow and adolescent medicine specialist at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The only risk factor we found for chlamydia infection was being a teenager."

The Hopkins team also found they couldn't predict whether a female was infected just
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Contact: Marc Kusinitz
mkusinitz@jhmi.edu
(410) 955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
12-Aug-1998


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