Female genital Chlamydia trachomatis infection: where are we heading?

Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2012 May;285(5):1271-85. doi: 10.1007/s00404-012-2240-7. Epub 2012 Feb 19.


Introduction: Urogenital infection by Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the world. C. trachomatis is the etiologic agent of several common genital tract syndromes such as urethritis, cervicitis, and pelvic inflammatory disease in women.

Materials and methods: In this review, the pathophysiology of a chlamydial infection as well as diagnosis, therapy and prevention strategies regarding female chlamydial infection are reviewed.

Results: A chlamydial infection results in minimal or even no symptoms in approximately two-thirds of women, remaining therefore clinically apparent and undiagnosed. C. trachomatis infections are of great socioeconomic and public health concern due to the potential for severe long-term consequences in women, including an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, tubal infertility and chronic pelvic pain. Moreover, if the bacterium is transmitted during labor to a newborn, it can cause ophthalmia neonatorum and atypical neonatal pneumonia. Due to the documented increased risk of morbidity, several national guidelines are available, including a routine screening for young women and screening during pregnancy that is recommended in several countries.

Discussion: A routine screening for young women and screening during pregnancy is recommended in several countries. However, additional prospective studies of the effectiveness of chlamydia screening are warranted and might be feasible within established screening programs. Moreover, the transition from cervicitis to infertility should be also evaluated in future controlled studies to underline the existing evidence. Additionally, there is an urgent need to educate and inform health-care providers about implementation of screening programs to reduce the spread of chlamydial infection. Moreover, awareness and use of screening programs by the public is needed, which requires informational campaigns for the general public using different media. For improved screening strategies and public awareness, novel approaches have to be developed and evaluated. Finally, guidelines should be actively disseminated to all medical practitioners to increase their use in daily practice. Although the major socioeconomic and public health concerns of C. trachomatis infection are recognized, several considerations and additional measures for addressing this increasingly urgent health problem remain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chlamydia Infections / diagnosis
  • Chlamydia Infections / epidemiology
  • Chlamydia Infections / physiopathology*
  • Chlamydia Infections / therapy
  • Chlamydia trachomatis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors