Screening for Chlamydial and Gonococcal Infections: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

JAMA. 2021 Sep 14;326(10):957-966. doi: 10.1001/jama.2021.10577.


Importance: The 2014 US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation statement supported the effectiveness of screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea in asymptomatic, sexually active women 24 years or younger and in older women at increased risk for infection, although evidence for screening in men was insufficient.

Objective: To update the 2014 USPSTF review on screening for chlamydial and gonococcal infection in adults and adolescents, including those who are pregnant.

Data sources: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and Ovid MEDLINE (January 1, 2014, through May 28, 2020) with surveillance through May 21, 2021.

Study selection: Randomized clinical trials and observational studies of screening effectiveness, accuracy of risk stratification and alternative screening methods, accuracy of tests, and screening harms.

Data extraction and synthesis: One investigator abstracted data; a second checked accuracy. Two investigators independently assessed study quality.

Main outcomes and measures: Complications of infection; infection transmission or acquisition; diagnostic accuracy of anatomical site-specific testing and collection methods; screening harms.

Results: Twenty-seven studies were included (N = 179 515). Chlamydia screening compared with no screening was significantly associated with reduced risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in 2 of 4 trials and with reduced hospital-diagnosed PID (0.24% vs 0.38%); relative risk, 0.6 [95% CI, 0.4-1.0]), but not clinic-diagnosed PID or epididymitis, in the largest trial. In studies of risk prediction instruments in asymptomatic women, age younger than 22 years demonstrated comparable accuracy to extensive criteria. Sensitivity of chlamydial testing was similar at endocervical (89%-100%) and self- and clinician-collected vaginal (90%-100%) sites for women and at meatal (100%), urethral (99%), and rectal (92%) sites for men but lower at pharyngeal sites (69.2%) for men who have sex with men. Sensitivity of gonococcal testing was 89% or greater for all anatomical samples. False-positive and false-negative testing rates were low across anatomical sites and collection methods.

Conclusions and relevance: Screening for chlamydial infection was significantly associated with a lower risk of PID in young women. Risk prediction criteria demonstrated limited accuracy beyond age. Testing for asymptomatic chlamydial and gonococcal infections was highly accurate at most anatomical sites, including urine and self-collected specimens. Effectiveness of screening in men and during pregnancy, optimal screening intervals, and adverse effects of screening require further evaluation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asymptomatic Diseases
  • Chlamydia Infections / complications
  • Chlamydia Infections / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Gonorrhea / complications
  • Gonorrhea / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening* / adverse effects
  • Mass Screening* / methods
  • Mass Screening* / standards
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / etiology
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / prevention & control
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Young Adult