The use of serologic tests for the diagnosis of chlamydial infections

J Microbiol Methods. 2000 Nov;42(3):265-79. doi: 10.1016/s0167-7012(00)00209-8.


Serology is commonly used for the diagnosis of acute Chlamydia pneumoniae infections and also for the diagnosis of complicated Chlamydia trachomatis infections. Furthermore, recent sero-epidemiological studies have linked C. pneumoniae infection with several diseases traditionally considered non-infectious. The objectives of this mini-review are to critically review and discuss some selected analytical and methodological aspects, controversies and current problems in chlamydial serodiagnosis. To illustrate our views we present some original data of the comparison of current technologies. The review of the literature revealed high variability in methodologies applied to different studies. This observation was supported by our own data, which explains occasional conflicting clinical interpretation. Although the microimmunofluorescence (MIF) technique is generally considered as the gold standard for serodiagnosis of chlamydial infections, assay conditions are highly variable and hence pose a major problem in the interpretation of the results. For instance, many recent studies linking C. pneumoniae and atherosclerosis have utilized MIF techniques with variable threshold criteria for the positivity, in combination with selection bias of cases and controls possibly leading to conflicting results. Variability of assay conditions is also a common problem with Western blots, and interpretation is problematic when both anti-C. pneumoniae and anti-C. trachomatis antibodies are present. Furthermore, there is a lot of disagreement in serological criteria applied to recently emerged enzyme immunoassay (EIA) techniques when these assays are used for acute and non-acute clinical conditions and their association with Chlamydiae. In conclusion, standardization of serological techniques and the development of uniform criteria for interpretation of serologic findings is necessary to increase our knowledge of the biology of Chlamydiae, pathogenesis of any chlamydial infection and chronic infections in particular.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Antigens, Bacterial / analysis
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology
  • Chlamydia / immunology
  • Chlamydia Infections / diagnosis*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Serologic Tests*


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Bacterial