Objectives: To determine the prevalence of Chlamydia trachomatis in acute conjunctivitis (non-trachoma) in Australia and to examine the source of transmission.
Design: A prospective survey of 400 consecutive patients presenting with acute conjunctivitis to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital Emergency Department, Melbourne, from May to November 1991. Patients identified with chlamydial conjunctivitis during the survey period and in the following two months were assessed for concomitant genital infection.
Results: Chlamydia was the causative organism in 2% of patients with acute conjunctivitis. Of 15 patients with chlamydial conjunctivitis, 11 presented with disease in one eye only, and the same number had had symptoms for longer than two weeks. Many had been seen previously by experienced ophthalmologists, yet there were long delays in making a definitive diagnosis. Ten of the 12 adult patients who were assessed had signs of concomitant genital tract infection, although none had past or current genital tract symptoms. Serotyping of chlamydial isolates from the genital tract and eye showed concordance in individual patients.
Conclusion: Most cases of ocular chlamydia infection have a genital source. Therefore, it is essential that all patients with chlamydial conjunctivitis and their sexual partners are examined and treated for concomitant genital infection.