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Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 01:55 GMT
Chlamydia test 'every six months'
chlamydia testing
Six-monthly checks for chlamydia are recommended
Young women should receive twice-yearly screening for the sexually-transmitted chlamydia bug, according to experts.

Women under 25, including teenagers, have been identified as particularly at risk after a US study revealed that four out of five cases of the infection are contracted within this age group.

But sexual health experts are unconvinced that a meaningful screening programme can be devised which tests millions of young women on such a frequent basis.

Regular screening is an advantage to prevent later problems with fertility

Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology spokesman
Chlamydia is the most common cause of serious preventable gynaecological problems in young women, including ectopic pregnancy and even infertility.

Yet, unlike many other sexually-transmitted diseases, it is often completely symptomless.

The latest study, carried out among women in Baltimore, US, found that in 2,073 sexually-active women younger than 25, almost a third had the bacterial infection.

Not only this, among this sub-group, half had been either infected for the first time, or reinfected before the eight month mark.

Therefore, to even have a chance of cutting the disease, the researchers conclude, women under 25 should be screened at six-monthly intervals.

Soaring rates of infection

Report author Dr Gale Burstein, from the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, said: "Since chlamydia can have a devastating impact on fertility and sexual health, appropriate screening of females improves capacities for good health.

"Therefore we recommend screening all females under 25 for chlamydia twice a year, regardless of symptoms, previous infections, condom use or multiple partners."

Cases of chlamydia have soared by 76% in the UK since 1995, with rates in London of 184 per 100,000 women and 155 per 100,000 men.

There were 33,000 new reported infections among women last year, and 24,000 among men.

The government has been considering a chlamydia screening programme, although no decision on the issue has been taken.

A spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: "There is a higher recurrence of chlamydia in young sexually active women.

"Regular screening is an advantage to prevent later problems with fertility."

The study also demonstrated how hard it is to predict smaller groups of women likely to be at higher risk of infection.

They found that the number of sexual partners a woman had, or her use of condoms, had no bearing on her likelihood of being infected with the disease.

The study was published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

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08 May 00 | Health
Men 'ignorant about sex disease'
20 Sep 00 | Health
Sex disease checks - by post
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