Randomised controlled trial of screening for Chlamydia trachomatis to prevent pelvic inflammatory disease: the POPI (prevention of pelvic infection) trial

BMJ. 2010 Apr 8;340:c1642. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c1642.


Objective: To determine whether screening and treating women for chlamydial infection reduces the incidence of pelvic inflammatory disease over the subsequent 12 months.

Design: Randomised controlled trial.

Setting: Common rooms, lecture theatres, and student bars at universities and further education colleges in London.

Participants: 2529 sexually active female students, mean age 21 years (range 16-27).

Intervention: Participants completed a questionnaire and provided self taken vaginal swabs, with follow-up after one year. Samples were randomly allocated to immediate testing and treatment for chlamydial infection, or storage and analysis after a year (deferred screening controls).

Main outcome measure: Incidence of clinical pelvic inflammatory disease over 12 months.

Results: Baseline prevalence of chlamydia was 5.4% (68/1254) in screened women and 5.9% (75/1265) in controls. 94% (2377/2529) of women were followed up after 12 months. The incidence of pelvic inflammatory disease was 1.3% (15/1191) in screened women compared with 1.9% (23/1186) in controls (relative risk 0.65, 95% confidence interval 0.34 to 1.22). Seven of 74 control women (9.5%, 95% confidence interval 4.7% to 18.3%) who tested positive for chlamydial infection at baseline developed pelvic inflammatory disease over 12 months compared with one of 63 (1.6%) screened women (relative risk 0.17, 0.03 to 1.01). However, most episodes of pelvic inflammatory disease occurred in women who tested negative for chlamydia at baseline (79%, 30/38). 22% (527/2377) of women reported being tested independently for chlamydia during the trial.

Conclusion: Although some evidence suggests that screening for chlamydia reduces rates of pelvic inflammatory disease, especially in women with chlamydial infection at baseline, the effectiveness of a single chlamydia test in preventing pelvic inflammatory disease over 12 months may have been overestimated. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00115388.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Chlamydia Infections / epidemiology
  • Chlamydia Infections / prevention & control*
  • Chlamydia trachomatis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • London / epidemiology
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / epidemiology
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / microbiology
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / prevention & control*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Partners
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00115388