Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Testing
Chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis) and gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae) bacteria cause most of the sexually transmitted infections in the world. Both can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Reinfection occurs without correct condom use or abstaining from sexual activity.
Up to 80% of women and men infected with chlamydia have no symptoms, and up to 98% of oral chlamydia infections are asymptomatic. Symptomatic oral chlamydia infections are often misdiagnosed because the symptoms look like common viral throat infections. When chlamydia symptoms occur, they appear as early as six weeks after exposure.
Up to 70% of women and men infected with gonorrhea have no symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported gonorrhea diagnoses in the United States have increased by 118% since 2009. In women, gonorrhea is often first misdiagnosed as a mild urinary tract infection. In men, the gonorrhea symptom urethritis can appear one week after the infection event. Gonorrhea can spread throughout the body causing chronic joint infections and fatal sepsis, which is rare.
Symptoms to Watch for
Urogenital chlamydia and gonorrhea symptoms in women include:
- Vaginal discharge, may or may not be foul smelling
- Endocervical bleeding
- Abdominal and pelvic pain
- Bleeding between periods
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Sore throat
- White spots in the back of throat or around tonsils
- Swollen lymph nodes of the neck
- Mild fever and fatigue
Gonorrhea symptoms in men include:
- Burning sensation when urinating
- White, yellow, or green discharge from penis
- Painful swelling of testicles
Why Treatment is Important
If left untreated in women, both urogenital chlamydia and gonorrhea can result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), chronic pelvic pain, infertility, or a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy. Undiagnosed, asymptomatic chlamydia and gonorrhea endangers the wellbeing of the mother and newborn.
When untreated in pregnant individuals, chlamydia or gonorrhea can cause miscarriages and premature births. Chlamydia-infected newborns can experience pneumonia or conjunctivitis, with possible rectal or genital chlamydia infections. Gonorrhea-infected newborns can develop joint infections, scalp abscesses, serious eye infections, blindness, meningitis, and sepsis. The associated risks of asymptomatic infection make annual screening essential for everyone.
Co-infection of chlamydia and gonorrhea is common. Co-testing for both chlamydia and gonorrhea is recommended. It is important to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea at the site of the potential infection: vagina, cervix, rectum, urethra, mouth, and pharynx.
Who Needs Tested?
- All sexually active women, with or without symptoms, need to be tested at least once a year, especially if they have more than one sex partner or have a new sex partner.
- All sexually active men need to be tested at least once a year, especially if they have multiple sex partners or have a new sex partner.
- Transgender and gender diverse individuals younger than 25 years should be tested at least once a year based on anatomy and sexual behavior.
- Pregnant persons at the first prenatal visit and during the third trimester as recommended by the CDC.
Testing at the Kansas Health & Environmental Labs
The Virology/Serology Unit uses a nucleic acid amplified test (NAAT) to detect chlamydia and gonorrhea in urogenital specimens. Sample each site of potential infection and clearly label the correct specimen tube. Individual swab sites of potential infection include vagina, cervix, throat, rectum, and urethra, in addition to urine. See the Laboratory Quick Reference Guide [Insert hyperlink] for addition information on chlamydia and gonorrhea testing.