If not detected and treated, chlamydia, which usually has no symptoms, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility.
The prevalence of chlamydial infection was higher than expected, especially among men. The infection was present in all races but six times greater in young black adults than in young whites, researchers found. Almost 14 percent of young black women and more than 11 percent of black men of comparable ages carried the bug.
Analysis of urine specimens of 12,548 study participants from across the country showed U.S. Asian men to have the lowest infection rates, scientists said. The highest infection rate occurred in the South (5.4 percent); the lowest was in the Northeast (2.4 percent).
Overall, the prevalence of gonorrhea was far lower -- 0.43 percent, the scientists discovered. Among black men and women, however, the prevalence was 2.13 percent.
"Asymptomatic young adult men clearly account for a large reservoir of infection in the general population, but screening recommendations have largely excluded men," said lead author Dr. William C. Miller, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology.
"The marked differences in these sexually transmitted infections across racial and ethnic groups are disturbing," Miler said. "Our results provide compelling evidence that nationwide disparities in chlamydial and gonococcal infections are real rather than the result of biased estimates."
The differences may be partially responsible for considerable variations in reproductive health among whites, blacks and other racial and ethnic groups, he said. For example, bl
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill