BACKGROUND: Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs) are the recommended test type for diagnosing Chlamydia trachomatis (chlamydia). However, less sensitive diagnostic methods-including direct immunofluorescence (IF) and enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA)-remain in use in lower resourced settings. We estimate the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) following undiagnosed infection in women tested with non-NAATs and estimate the health gain from using accurate diagnostic tests.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: We used Denmark's national Chlamydia Study dataset to extract all chlamydia tests performed in women aged 15-34 years (1998-2001). Tests were categorised as non-NAAT (IF/ELISA) or NAAT and limited to each woman's first test in the study period. We linked test data to hospital presentations for PID within 12 months from the Danish National Patient Register. The study included 272,105 women with a chlamydia test, just under half (44.78%, n = 121,857) were tested using NAATs. Overall, 6.38% (n = 17,353) tested positive for chlamydia and 0.64% (n = 1,732) were diagnosed with PID within 12 months. The risk of PID following a positive chlamydia test did not differ by test type (NAAT 0.81% [95% CI 0.61-1.00], non-NAAT 0.78% [0.59-0.96]). The risk of PID following a negative test was significantly lower in women tested with NAATs compared to non-NAATs (0.55% [0.51-0.59] compared to 0.69% [0.64-0.73]; adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 0.83 [0.75-0.93]). We estimate that 18% of chlamydia infections in women tested with a non-NAAT were undiagnosed and that the risk of progression from undiagnosed chlamydia infection to PID within 12 months was 9.52% (9.30-9.68). Using non-NAATs could lead to an excess 120 cases of PID per 100,000 women tested compared to using NAATs. The key limitations of this study are under ascertainment of PID cases, misclassification bias in chlamydia and PID exposure status, bias to the association between clinical presentation and test type and the presence of unmeasured confounders (including other sexually transmitted infection [STI] diagnoses and clinical indication for chlamydia test).
CONCLUSION: This retrospective observational study estimates the positive impact on women's reproductive health from using accurate chlamydia diagnostic tests and provides further evidence for restricting the use of inferior tests. Women with a negative chlamydia test have a 17% higher adjusted risk of PID by 12 months if they are tested using a non-NAAT compared to a NAAT.
- Bristol Medical School (PHS) - Reader in Infectious Disease Epidemiology
- Bristol Population Health Science Institute
- Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU)
- Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Mathematics and Ecology
- Infection and Immunity
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