Can serology diagnose upper genital tract Chlamydia trachomatis infections? Studies on women with pelvic pain, with or without chlamydial plasmid DNA in endometrial biopsy tissue

Sex Transm Dis. 1998 Jan;25(1):14-9. doi: 10.1097/00007435-199801000-00004.


Background: Upper genital tract chlamydial infections in women are on the increase, and serology might be a convenient tool for diagnosis. Evaluations of this approach are needed in women with or without microbiologic evidence of organisms in the upper genital tract.

Goals: To compare the results of antibody assays with cervical culture and upper genital tract histopathology in women with pelvic pain and chlamydial plasmid DNA in endometrial biopsies.

Study design: Chlamydia trachomatis plasmid DNA was detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on extracted deparaffinized endometrial biopsy tissue. Five antichlamydial antibody assays were performed measuring total antibodies or immunoglobulin G (IgG), IgM, and IgA classes on sera from 14 women with plasmid DNA as well as 31 without plasmid DNA.

Results: Accepting the presence of plasmid DNA as the gold standard, no single test had total diagnostic accuracy. The best sensitivity and specificity occurred with the following assays: whole inclusion fluorescence (WIF) (100% and 80.6%); microimmunofluorescence IgM (MIF IgM) (78.6% and 93.6%); and heatshock protein-60 enzyme immunoassay (42.9% and 100%). Although recombinant anti-lipopolysaccharide enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays measured anti-chlamydial antibodies in a large proportion of these women, specificity was low. The sensitivity and specificity of cervical culture was 28.6% and 100% and of endometrial histopathology was 71.4% and 48.4%. Analysis of patient serological profiles suggested that and 6 women without plasmid DNA may have been cases that were missed by PCR.

Conclusions: Evaluations of assays to diagnosis Chlamydia trachomatis upper genital tract infections could use the presence of organisms or their markers in the upper genital tract as a standard of comparison. Some of these serological assays, such as WIF or MIF IgM, may be helpful in diagnosis, but more studies are needed.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood*
  • Biopsy
  • Chaperonin 60 / blood
  • Chlamydia Infections / diagnosis*
  • Chlamydia trachomatis* / genetics
  • Chlamydia trachomatis* / immunology
  • Endometrium / pathology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pelvic Pain / diagnosis*
  • Plasmids*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Serologic Tests


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Chaperonin 60