National impact of chlamydia studied

July 15, 2005|By John Lauerman | John Lauerman,BLOOMBERG NEWS SERVICE

Chlamydia, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., infects about 2.2 percent of young American adults, 10 times the rate of gonorrhea, according to the first national study of the disease's impact, which was presented in Amsterdam yesterday.

The disease can cause sterility. About 4.6 percent of American women from ages 14 to 19 were infected, the highest rate for any age group, said John Douglas, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's sexually transmitted disease prevention programs.

Caused by a treatable bacterium, chlamydia can silently cause scarring of the reproductive organs, leading to infertility. Infants who contract the infection from their mothers during birth can develop eye and lung diseases. Only one in three infected has noticeable symptoms such as painful urination and belly pain, according to the National Institutes of Health Web site.

"Stepping up screening and prevention efforts is critical to ensuring that young people do not suffer the long-term effects of untreated chlamydia, including infertility," said Douglas, who led the research, in an e-mailed statement. When chlamydia is detected, patients can be treated with antibiotics including tetracycline, he said.

The same study found that the nationwide prevalence of gonorrhea was 0.24 percent, said Jessica Frickey, a CDC spokeswoman.

About 6.4 percent of blacks were infected, compared with 1.5 percent of whites, according to the study presented at a meeting of the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Diseases Research. The findings were based on government surveys from 1999 through 2002 involving 6,632 people ages 14 to 39.

Among poorer young U.S. adults, chlamydia rates were almost one in 10, according to two other studies of 106,000 women and 50,000 men that were reported at the meeting.

Almost 900,000 cases of chlamydia were reported in the in 2003, making it the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., Douglas said.

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