Hong Kong researchers call for chlamydia screening for youngsters and middle-aged women

University research finds that 5.8 per cent of sexually active young women are infected with one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 9:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 9:57am

University of Hong Kong researchers called for chlamydia screening for youngsters and middle-aged women, after the first citywide study found that 5.8 per cent of sexually active young women were infected with one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.

The study, which tested urine samples of 881 randomly selected people aged from 18 to 49, found that the city’s overall prevalence rate for chlamydia, a bacterial infection which can lead to pelvic inflammation or infertility in women and prostatitis in men, was 1.4 per cent.

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But the prevalence showed a U-shape distribution. Among the 566 people who were sexually active – those who had sex in the past 12 months – 5.8 per cent of women aged between 18 and 26 were found to be infected, while 4.8 per cent of men in the same age group also tested positive.

The rate went down to below 2 per cent for both sexes for those aged 27 to 39, but climbed to 4.1 per cent for women aged between 40 and 49.

“The trend was similar to previous local studies on human papillomavirus ... Couples might break up and both sides would look for new partners [resulting in unprotected sex],” said Dr William Wong Chi-wai, co-author of the study and a clinical associate professor in the university’s department of family medicine and primary care.

Apart from young age, the study also identified that living alone or having male partners who travelled outside Hong Kong were also risk factors leading to infection.

Places such as Lantau, Tsuen Wan and Central and Western and Eastern districts had a higher prevalence, but Wong said this did not mean they were high-risk areas.

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While men infected with chlamydia might have a grey frothy discharge from their reproductive organs, infected women could be asymptomatic and it would take “months to a year” before complications emerged.

Wong said screening should be considered to identify patients to prevent further transmission.

“It is a common disease. Testing is simple ... and results could be out in one to two hours. It could also be treated simply with antibiotics,” Wong said.

A Department of Health spokesman said they welcomed the study, but there was no consensus internationally on the effectiveness of screening to reduce pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility. The department’s social hygiene clinics provide free clinical services to people suspected of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.