Rapid test offers new weapon against chlamydia

A new rapid test for chlamydia, the world's most common sexually transmitted infection, has proved successful in trials and could help rein in a worrying rise in the disease, British scientists said on Friday.

LONDON - A new rapid test for chlamydia, the world's most common sexually transmitted infection, has proved successful in trials and could help rein in a worrying rise in the disease, British scientists said on Friday.

The test is able to detect chlamydia in less than 30 minutes -- and often much faster.

Its speed could also mean it becomes a vital diagnostic tool in the developing world where chlamydia, which can cause infertility, is a largely hidden menace.

The new Chlamydia Rapid Test (CRT) detects bacteria from self-collected vaginal swabs, which are much simpler to obtain than cervical swabs required by existing rapid tests. It is also up to twice as accurate.

"The speed of the CRT means that we can provide a 'test and treat' strategy, offering immediate clinical care to the patient," said Helen Lee of the University of Cambridge, whose research team developed the test.

That could make it particularly useful in mobile clinics or amongst difficult-to-reach populations in the developing world, where high-risk groups such as female sex workers frequently carry the disease undetected.

Chlamydia is easily cured with antibiotics, but often goes undiagnosed. When untreated, it can cause severe health consequences, particularly for women, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility.

The test will be made available by a university spinout company Diagnostics for the Real World in early 2008. The firm plans to provide the test at virtually cost price to the public sector in developing countries.

An evaluation of the test in three British clinics was reported in the British Medical Journal.

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