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12 January 2010
Boys to blame for chlamydia's persistence?

Frequent testing and treatment of infection does not reduce the prevalence of chlamydia in teenage girls, and a new study shows that reinfection is a common event. The long-term study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, showed that on entering the study, 10.9 percent of the young women were infected. After 18 months of participation, 10.6 percent were infected and 10.4 percent were infected at the four-year mark.

Importantly, the study notes that 84 percent of repeated infections were reinfections. In spite of being so highly motivated that they kept diaries of their sexual encounters and interacted at least quarterly with the study staff, some of the young women had unprotected sex with either an untreated partner or a new partner and subsequent infection occurred.

"The rate of infection we found in the 365 Indianapolis girls we followed is similar to the rates reported by other researchers for girls in Denver and Baltimore, so it is likely that our important new findings on reinfection can be generalized to urban teenage girls in other cities," said Indiana University's Byron E. Batteiger, the first author of the study.

The researchers were surprised by the prevalence of infection in the boys they tested. "We were able to test 22.6 percent of all the partners that the girls named in the study. We determined that 26.2 percent of the participating boys were infected - a very high level of infection in this pool of young men to whom young women in the study were exposed," said Dr. Batteiger.

Currently, national recommendations call for routine chlamydia screening of women based on age and history of sexual activity but there is no similar recommendation for screening young men. "The high rate of reinfection we found in our study strongly suggests there may be some real limits on what we can do to control chlamydia without doing a better job of controlling chlamydia in young men," the study notes.

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Source: Indiana University School of Medicine

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