Chlamydia prevalence in the general population: is there a sex difference? a systematic review

BMC Infect Dis. 2013 Nov 11;13:534. doi: 10.1186/1471-2334-13-534.


Background: The focus of Chlamydia trachomatis screening and testing lies more on women than on men. The study aim was to establish by systematic review the prevalence of urogenital Chlamydia trachomatis infection in men and women in the general population.

Methods: Electronic databases and reference lists were searched from 2000 to 2013 using the key words "Chlamydia trachomatis", "population-based study" and "disease prevalence". Reference lists were checked. Studies were included in the analysis if Chlamydia trachomatis prevalence was reported for both men and women in a population-based study. Prevalence rates for men and women were described as well as highest prevalence rate by age and sex. The difference in prevalence between the sexes in each study was calculated.

Results: Twenty-five studies met the inclusion criteria and quality assessment for the review. In nine of the twenty-five studies there was a statistically significant sex difference in the chlamydia prevalence. In all nine studies the prevalence of chlamydia was higher in women than in men. The prevalence for women varied from 1.1% to 10.6% and for men from 0.1% to 12.1%. The average chlamydia prevalence is highly variable between countries. The highest prevalence of chlamydia occurred predominantly in younger age groups (< 25 years). The absence of symptoms in population-based urogenital chlamydia infection is common in men and women (mean 88.5% versus 68.3%).

Conclusions: The urogenital chlamydia trachomatis prevalence in the general population is more similar than dissimilar for men and women. A modest sex difference is apparent. The prevalence rates can be used to inform chlamydia screening strategies in general practice.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chlamydia Infections / epidemiology*
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors