Chlamydia trachomatis load at matched anatomic sites: implications for screening strategies

J Clin Microbiol. 2007 May;45(5):1395-402. doi: 10.1128/JCM.00100-07. Epub 2007 Mar 21.


Urethral and endocervical swabs and self-collected vaginal swabs (SCVSs) and urine specimens are all used as samples for diagnosis of urogenital infection with Chlamydia trachomatis. We have now determined chlamydial organism load in matched specimens from different anatomic sites and examined its relation to clinical signs and symptoms in men and women. Organism load was measured with assays based on the ligase chain reaction or real-time PCR analysis. The mean organism loads in 58 infected men were 1,200 and 821 elementary bodies (EBs) per 100 microl of sample for first-void urine (FVU) and urethral swabs, respectively (P>0.05). Organism load in FVU samples or urethral swabs was positively associated with symptoms (P<0.01) and clinical signs (P<0.01) in men. The mean organism loads in 73 infected women were 2,231, 773, 162, and 47 EBs/100 microl for endocervical swabs, SCVSs, urethral swabs, and FVU samples, respectively (P<0.001 for each comparison). Only the presence of multiple symptoms or clinical signs was associated with organism load in women. These results show that FVU is a suitable noninvasive sample type for men, given the fact that its chlamydial load did not differ significantly from that of urethral swabs. Given their higher organism load compared with FVU, SCVSs are the preferred noninvasive sample type for women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cervix Uteri / microbiology
  • Chlamydia Infections / diagnosis*
  • Chlamydia Infections / urine
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Urethra / microbiology
  • Urethral Diseases / diagnosis
  • Urethral Diseases / microbiology
  • Uterine Cervical Diseases / diagnosis
  • Uterine Cervical Diseases / microbiology
  • Vagina / microbiology
  • Vaginal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Vaginal Diseases / microbiology