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Findings raise pressure to get cash-strapped programme back on track

Chlamydia screening could halve infections

By Lilian Anekwe

Screening for chlamydia has the potential to halve cases of infection in the next five years, researchers conclude.

Their projections will increase pressure to get the rollout of the programme back on track after the funding difficulties Pulse revealed last week.

NHS London has since admitted only some of its primary care trusts will be able to implement screening during 2007 because of lack of cash.

The new study, published in the latest issue of Sexually Transmitted Infections, modelled the likely impact of different screening strategies on the prevalence of chlamydia.

It found annual opportunistic screening of women under 25 could reduce overall prevalence of chlamydia by 57 per cent after five years, and 70 per cent over 10 years.

Including men and testing more frequently if patients changed partners – as recommended in the National Chlamydia Screening Programme – would reduce prevalence even further, but require twice as many tests.

Study leader Dr Katherine Turner, a research associate in the department of infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, said the model was encouraging, but higher uptake was also needed.

'Achieving a sustained reduction in chlamydia prevalence may be possible with continuous opportunistic screening but high acceptance, universal coverage, repeated testing and effective partner notification are needed.'

Her comments echo a recent official evaluation of chlamydia screening warning uptake was currently too low to achieve planned reductions in infections.

Meanwhile, a second new study published online by

Sexually Transmitted Infections has questioned whether opportunistic screening is the best strategy for the programme.

A proactive chlamydia screening programme – in which patients collected their own specimens and posted them to a laboratory – cost £20.37 per screening invitation with an uptake of 34 per cent, with lower administrative costs than opportunistic screening.

Study leader Suzanne Robinson, a lecturer in health economics at the University of

Bristol, argued this represented better value for money than

an opportunistic screening

programme.

lanekwe@cmpmedica.com

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