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Urine Culture For Chlamydia




Chlamydia is an infection caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. The most common bacterial STD in the United States, chlamydia is usually spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Untreated chlamydia infections can lead to serious health issues including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility.

Chlamydia testing is used to screen for chlamydia and diagnose this bacterial infection. Samples used for chlamydia testing include urine and swabs of fluid from the vagina, cervix, throat, eyes, or rectum. Depending on the site of the potential infection, samples used for testing may be collected by the patient or their medical provider.

Purpose of the test
The purpose of testing for chlamydia is to determine if a person has a chlamydia infection.

Because most people with chlamydia don’t experience symptoms, doctors rely on screening tests to detect the majority of infections. Screening tests attempt to diagnose health conditions before a person experiences symptoms. While doctors may screen for chlamydia on its own, STD screening often involves testing for several STDs at once.

When symptoms associated with chlamydia are present, diagnostic testing is used to confirm or rule out chlamydia as the cause of a person’s symptoms. Because chlamydia can cause similar symptoms to gonorrhea, another common STD, patients with symptoms of chlamydia are commonly assessed for gonorrhea simultaneously.

What does the test measure?
Chlamydia testing looks for evidence of infection with the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. There are several types of tests that can be used to detect chlamydia, including molecular testing, also called Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT), and cell culture.

is the preferred method for detecting a chlamydia infection. This type of test detects the genetic material (DNA or RNA) of Chlamydia trachomatis. It can be performed using a urine sample or swab of fluid taken from a site of potential infection such as the urethra, vagina, rectum, or eye.

Traditionally, NAAT takes a day or more to provide results, but there have also been rapid chlamydia tests developed using NAAT methods. Rapid chlamydia tests can often provide a result within 30 to 90 minutes. Rapid chlamydia tests are typically performed on urine samples or swabs of fluid taken from the vagina or cervix.

Although much less commonly used, cell cultures can help diagnose a chlamydia infection. Chlamydia cell cultures may be used in children with a suspected chlamydia infection, when evaluating potential infections in the anus or rectum, and when initial treatment for chlamydia is unsuccessful. In these cases of treatment failure, doctors may use a cell culture to help understand which treatments may be most effective for an individual’s infection.

Other types of chlamydia tests are available but are rarely used given the accuracy and availability of NAAT.

When should I get chlamydia testing?
As most people infected with chlamydia do not experience symptoms, doctors rely on screening to detect most cases of chlamydia. Screening guidelines vary based on many factors, including a person’s anatomy, health, and sexual practices. Regular screening for chlamydia is recommended for several groups:

  • Women and anyone with a vagina: Those who are sexually active and under the age of 25 should be tested for chlamydia annually, while those aged 25 and older should be screened regularly only if they are at an increased risk of contracting chlamydia.
  • Pregnant people: Chlamydia testing is recommended for all pregnant people under age 25 and for those 25 and over with an increased risk of this infection. In addition to initial testing, experts recommend retesting during the third trimester for people with an elevated risk of infection. For pregnant patients diagnosed with chlamydia, follow-up testing is advised four weeks after completing treatment and again within three months.
  • Men and anyone with a penis: Those who are gay, bisexual, or have sex with other people with a penis should be tested at least annually. Testing may be recommended every three to six months if patients are at an increased risk of contracting chlamydia. Regular screening is not recommended for other people with a penis unless they are at an increased risk of infection.
  • People diagnosed with HIV: Sexually active people diagnosed with HIV should be screened for chlamydia during their initial HIV evaluation, then at least annually depending on their risk and local infection rates.

Certain factors increase the risk of contracting chlamydia and may affect how often a person should be screened. Risk factors include having:

  • Sex with a new partner
  • More than one sexual partner or a partner who has sex with mutiple people
  • A sex partner diagnosed with an STD

Testing for chlamydia is more frequently conducted in asymptomatic people in settings where infection rates are high, which often includes correctional facilities, adolescent health clinics, the military, and sexual health clinics.

Diagnostic chlamydia testing is recommended for anyone with signs or symptoms of this infection. When symptoms do occur, they may not appear until a few weeks after exposure. Signs and symptoms of chlamydia can vary based on the site of infection but may include:

  • Burning during urination
  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina, penis, or rectum
  • Vaginal bleeding after sex or pain during intercourse
  • Pain, tenderness, or swelling in the testicles or scrotum
  • Rectal pain

For patients diagnosed with chlamydia, retesting for this infection is often performed after treatment is complete. Patients may be tested within three weeks of completing treatment to ensure that treatment was successful or around three months after treatment has ended to see if they have been reinfected with chlamydia.


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