Background: Chlamydia trachomatis infection is common in women with pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic gestation. In this study we examined the prevalence of this infection in young women undergoing routine gynaecological checks.
Methods: Three hundred and five women aged between 19 and 41 were included in our study. Endocervical smears were collected by speculum examination, air-dried, acetone-fixed and stained for chlamydial antigen using fluorescein-labelled monoclonal antibody.
Results: Ninety-five per cent of the women were asymptomatic. Only 5% had mild symptoms such as white discharge, abdominal pain or profuse periods; 34% gave a history of white discharge only. Chlamydial antigen was detected in cervical smears from 47 (15%) women. Of these, 9 (19%) had symptoms at examination and 20 (43%) had symptoms within 2 months. On gynaecological examination 25 women (53%) had minor signs such as erosion or cervicitis and only 1 (2%) had uterine tenderness suggestive of mild pelvic inflammatory disease.
Conclusions: It is important to diagnose chlamydial infection early because in its later stages it is associated with an ascending infection and serious complications. Young, relatively asymptomatic women should be screened for the presence of this organism.