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Liz Banks-Anderson
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The largest Australian chlamydia study to date, led by the University of Melbourne, has found more men contract chlamydia than previously thought and most cases of infection are being missed.

The pilot study published in the Medical Journal of Australia today detailed chlamydia prevalence in 4284 patients attending 134 general practices around Australia, via direct questionnaire and chlamydia tests.  

Lead researcher Associate Professor Jane Hocking from the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health said the research involved the largest sample of men to date and highlighted the need to better monitor rates of chlamydia in men.

“We all know that women must be targeted for chlamydia testing, but our results show there is a lot of chlamydia in men so any chlamydia control intervention must also include men.” 

“This study is part of a larger trial that is investigating whether annual chlamydia testing in general practice for young men and women is effective at reducing chlamydia prevalence,” she said.

Prevalence of chlamydia was 5.2 per cent in men and 4.4 per cent in women. Among men, prevalence was highest in those aged 20-24 years (6.6 per cent) and in women, it was highest in those aged 16-19 years (8.0 per cent).

Nearly three quarters of cases (73 per cent) were diagnosed in asymptomatic patients attending for non-sexual health reasons, such as an annual check up. It was found that prevalence was slightly higher in those living in rural areas and regional areas (4.8 per cent) compared with those living in metropolitan areas (3.1 per cent).

“The study reveals that if GPs just target those presenting with symptoms or for a sexual health related reason (eg: contraception, Pap smear), then most infections will be missed,” Associate Professor Hocking said.

“The good news is that the study has shown most men and women are amenable to being tested and treated in general practice, even in rural areas, and we need to act on these findings.”

The study was done in collaboration with a number of organisations including the Kirby Institute in New South Wales and the University of Bern and was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

It involved the participation of 134 general practice clinics in rural and regional Victoria (18 towns), New South Wales (21 towns), Queensland (11 towns) and South Australia (4 towns) and 9 clinics in metropolitan Melbourne.