What is Chlamydia?

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a bacteria / bacterial infection which may or may not cause symptoms.

Chlamydia refers to a sexually transmitted disease resulting from infection with the obligate intracellular pathogen, Chlamydia trachomatis.

Symptomatic Chlamydia has numerous clinical presentations, often based on the sex of the affected individual.

In men, it may present as either epididymitis or prostatitis.

In women, this disease may present as pelvic inflammatory disease, cervicitis or pelvic pain.

The disease may however present in both sexes as urethritis, trachoma, infertility as well as proctitis. Chlamydia also results in a number of complications such as ectopic pregnancies, pelvic pain and conjunctivitis in neonates from infected mothers.

Why is Chlamydia increasing?

Chlamydia has a very high prevalence and is among the most common STDs today. A number of factors have contributed to this. The first is that, more often than not, Chlamydia is asymptomatic, with only about 10 percent of men and less than 30 percent of women presenting with symptomatic Chlamydia. Another factor that has caused an increase in infections is reckless sexual behaviors, particularly among teenagers and adolescents such as unprotected intercourse.

Additionally, the fact that most adolescents have multiple sexual partners has also made the transmission rate soar. A rise in the cases of men having sex with men has also contributed to the increase in transmission rates through anal or oral sex. A condition known as cervical ectopy, where the endocervix cells are on the ectocervix also predisposes young females to chlamydial infection and has also contributed to the surging transmission rates.

Tests for Chlamydia

A number of methods can be employed in the detection of Chlamydia, with differences being in the sensitivities as well as turn-around time of the methods. The first method is the Nucleic Acid Amplification Test. This is the most sensitive and basically works by detecting the DNA strands of Chlamydia trachomatis through techniques such as the polymerase chain reaction. Other methods test for the Chlamydia antigens and these include the Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay and the Direct Fluorescent Antibody tests. Chlamydia cell cultures may also be used to detect Chlamydia but they are more expensive and have a turn-around time of more than two days. The specimen of choice to be collected and tested is sex based. For males, it is a urine sample while for females it is a vaginal swab that is self-collected. Rectal swab specimens are yet to be approved by the FDA for diagnostic testing of Chlamydia.

Treatment of Chlamydia

Chlamydia is easily curable by antibiotics that are bacteriostatic. The most commonly used agents for chlamydia treatment are the macrolides and tetracyclines. Macrolides such as erythromycin, azithromycin and clarithromycin cause microbe death by inhibiting the synthesis of proteins in bacteria by binding to the 50S subunit of the Chlamydia ribosomes. Tetracyclines such as doxycycline, on the other hand, cause death by also inhibiting the synthesis of proteins in bacteria but by binding to the 30S subunit of the Chlamydia ribosomes. A full dose of the antibiotics should be prescribed and adhered to, with the special instruction such as concomitant use of doxycycline with milk being prohibited, strictly followed.

Prevention of Chlamydia

Being a sexually transmitted disease, Chlamydia can be prevented by adopting safe sexual practices. These include the correct use of condoms if abstaining is not possible. Minimising on the number of sexual partners to just one will also greatly reduce the transmission rates of Chlamydia. Regular checkups and screening for Chlamydia may also aid in detecting the infection early and stopping its transmission to others.