Current methods of laboratory diagnosis of Chlamydia trachomatis infections

Clin Microbiol Rev. 1997 Jan;10(1):160-84. doi: 10.1128/CMR.10.1.160.


Infections caused by Chlamydia trachomatis are probably the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States. Commonly unrecognized and often inadequately treated, chlamydial infections can ascend the reproductive tract and cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which often results in the devastating consequences of infertility, ectopic pregnancy, or chronic pelvic pain. C. trachomatis infections are also known to increase the risk for human immunodeficiency virus infection. The obligate intracellular life cycle of C. trachomatis has traditionally required laboratory diagnostic tests that are technically demanding, labor-intensive, expensive, and difficult to access. In spite of these historical challenges, however, laboratory diagnosis of C. trachomatis has been a rapidly advancing area in which there is presently a wide array of commercial diagnostic technologies, costs, manufacturers. This review describes and compares the diagnostic methods for C. trachomatis infection that are currently approved for use in the United States, including the newest DNA amplification technologies which are yet to be licensed for commercial use. Issues to consider in selecting a test for purposes of screening versus diagnosis based on prevalence, performance, legal, social, and cost issues are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antigens, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / diagnosis
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chlamydia Infections / diagnosis*
  • Chlamydia Infections / epidemiology
  • Chlamydia Infections / microbiology
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / genetics
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / growth & development
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / immunology
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / isolation & purification*
  • Clinical Enzyme Tests
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques*
  • Complement Fixation Tests
  • DNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Drug Monitoring / methods
  • Female
  • Fluoroimmunoassay
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality Control
  • Rape / diagnosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Specimen Handling


  • Antigens, Viral
  • DNA, Viral
  • leukocyte esterase
  • Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases