Youngest Women Had Highest Prevalence
Nearly one in 10 female new recruits in the Army is infected with Chlamydia trachomatis, according to a study reported in today's New England Journal of Medicine. Left untreated, this Chlamydia infection causes a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that often ends in infertility. Along with a recently reported study from Hopkins on prevalence of infection in teenage girls, the new research suggests Chlamydia is a major threat to the reproductive health of young U.S. women.
The current report from a multi-institutional team led by Hopkins epidemiologists, is a wake-up call, says team leader Charlotte Gaydos, Dr. P.H., because, unlike earlier studies, this one involves adults as well as teens and multiracial populations from varied areas across the country.
Throughout 1996 and 1997, the researchers targeted new female recruits at the Army's induction center at Fort Jackson, S.C., where most of the women come for training. More than 13,204 women volunteered to participate in screening shortly after their arrival. Each filled out a questionnaire on demographics and sexual behavior. Researchers analyzed the recruits' urine samples for Chlamydia DNA using the ligase chain reaction test, a new, highly sensitive way of detecting small amounts of genetic material. They also checked the questionnaires to determine risk factors for getting the infection.
Results of the screening showed that overall, 9.2 percent of the women had Chlamydia, but that figure jumped to more than 12 percent if researchers looked only at 17-year-olds. The risk of having the disease, then, was highest for the youngest recruits. Other factors tied to disease risk were being African-American, being sexually active, not using condoms regularly or having a history of sexually transmitted disease.