Chlamydia is now the most common sexually transmitted disease among US adults. Since the infection sometimes is not accompanied by symptoms, an individual may actually have the disease without being aware of it.
This absence of any visible sign makes chlamydia tests crucial in determining the presence of chlamydia bacteria (chlamydia trachomatis) in the body. A urine sample or body fluid sample is usually taken in most tests.
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and direct fluorescent antibody test are rapid tests that establish the presence of chlamydia antigens and activate the immune system against the infection.
Chlamydia bacteria can also be detected using a nucleic acid amplification test. Polymerase chain reaction testing is one of several NAATs, which detect chlamydia DNA and can be carried out using a urine sample.
A nucleic acid hybridization test also detects genetic material of the disease. This DNA probe test offers very accurate results but falls behind an NAAT in terms of sensitivity.
The costly and highly technical chlamydia culture sets up an appropriate environment for bacterial growth. The test could take up to a week and is applied in cases of treatment failure or suspected sexual abuse.
The chlamydia test helps establish if an infection due to the bacteria is causing symptoms of an STD. High-risk individuals are also screened.
Routine screening is recommended by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) for the following groups of individuals:
– Sexually-active women 25 years old and below
– Pregnant women and women 25 and above engaged in high-risk sexual practices
– Women whose pelvic examination reveals signs of cervical infection
– Newborn babies whose mothers were infected during pregnancy or around delivery
Testing for chlamydia is done through a direct smear, or collecting fluid from the body part where infection is suspected. The body fluid can be taken from the cervix, rectum, urethra or eye. Rectum or urethra samples are taken by inserting a swab into the opening of those areas.
A cervix sample will require use of a speculum and its insertion into the vagina. In this case, one has to be naked from the waist down, lie on her back and raise her feet to enable the doctor or health professional to examine the genital area. A swab is also used to get a sample from the eye by lightly brushing the upper and lower eyelids.
Urine samples is the other option. For women, douching or the use of vaginal products should be avoided a minimum 24 hours before the test. If urine will be used, urination must be avoided 2 hours prior to collection. The genital area should not be wiped clean prior to collection, and the sample is taken from the initial stream, or immediately as one urinates.
Slight pain and discomfort is expected when samples are collected. The procedure will feel similar to a pelvic examination or a Pap smear for women, some of whom may experience cramps when the speculum is inserted.
The process is practically risk-free from any complication. However, a woman may faint or become dizzy due to vasovagal syncope – a condition wherein pain or fear is elevated during insertion.
When chlamydia test results are negative or normal, this means that no trace of any antigen or DNA was found. For bacterial cultures, this means that no growth was observed. However, doctors generally call for more tests to establish if other STDs are causing the symptoms.
For positive or abnormal results, more aggressive course of action should be expected by the infected individual. Any sexual contact must be avoided to prevent the infection from spreading to others. Chlamydia infections are usually treated with antibiotics, followed by new tests to determine if the disease has been eliminated.
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