Chlamydia the “silent epidemic” is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world today. It’s often found in sexually active adolescent 15-19 years old. This infection is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia is an obligate intracellular bacterium that lives within the human cell with three different species. Chlamydia trachomatis, Chlamydia pnemoniae and Chlamydia psittaci. Chlamydia trachomatis was discovered in Berlin by Stanislaus von Prowazek in 1907. It comes from the Greek word “chlamys” meaning cloak and “trachomatis” meaning harsh or rough.

Chlamydia trachomatis appears coccoid or rod shape and grows inside the host cell. The incubation period of this bacterium is 7-21 days then it begins to replicate every three hours and infect other cells. The bacteria enter the body through the mucous membrane and reproduce by binary fission. The mucous membranes of the genitalia, eyes and throat are the usual reservoirs for Chlamydia.

Chlamydia is transmitted directly through oral, vaginal and, anal sex and vertically through vaginal birth by an infected mother. The rate of direct and vertical transmission ranges from 40-60%. There is a 50% chance of neonate getting the infection at the time of delivery.

Chlamydia signs and symptoms are asymptomatic; more than 75% of infected women and 50% of men do not even know they have it. The most common signs and symptoms are:

Men:
• Genital itching
• more frequent urination
• painful urination
• painful or swollen testicles
• white or yellow discharge from the penis
• inflamed rectum
• urethritis
• sore and red throat
• redness at the tip of the penis
• inflamed eyelids

Women:
• Yellow or cloudy vaginal discharge
• inflamed rectum
• painful urination
• pelvic, back and abdominal pain
• more frequent urination
• painful intercourse
• bleeding between periods
• nausea or fever

Other parts of that body that can be infected by Chlamydia are:
Eyes and eyelids – can be contaminated by hand touching could be red and itchy.
Throat – can be infected through oral sex could have throat irritation.
Anus – can be infected through anal sex could have rectal mucous discharge, rectal bleeding and painful bowel movement.

Chlamydia if left untreated can have serious complications for both genders. It can result in chronic pelvic pain and pelvic inflammatory disease in women damaging the ovaries, fallopian tubes and ovaries which can lead to ectopic pregnancy and infertility. Untreated chlamydia can lead to prostatitis and epididymitis in men. Men and women who engage in anal sex can have rectal inflammation. Newborns that pass the birth canal can suffer from pneumonia or eye infection.

Because chlamydia is asymptomatic and hard to detect sexually active individual under 24 should take screening test. Men and women with multiple sex partners are at higher risk for infection. Urine sample or a swab of the cervix and penis are needed for screening.

Tests for chlamydia infection include:
• Enzyme immunoassay (EIA) or Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) this test finds Chlamydia antigen.
• Cell culture test – this traditional test takes 48–72 hours to complete.
• DNA probe test – this test finds Chlamydia DNA
• Nucleic acid amplification test – most specific test with more than 90% accuracy
• Direct fluorescent antibody staining – this test is faster than cell culture test.

Chlamydia is a curable infection with the right medication. The most common treatment is oral bacteriostatic antibiotics such as erythromycin, azithromycin, clarithromycin, doxycycline and tetracycline. People taking antibiotics should abstain from sex for seven days to prevent re-infection. Sexual partners should also be treated regardless of the symptom. A person can be re-infected again after treatment the best way to prevent reinfection is through simultaneous treatment of both partners before resumption of sexual activity.

The safest way to prevent chlamydia is through abstinence. But there are ways to reduce the risk of infection including:
• Using latex condoms for oral, anal and vaginal sex
• Avoiding sexual promiscuity
• Undergoing regular chlamydia screenings