Houston, Texas, USA : NIBIB-funded researchers recently validated a rapid STD test that delivered accurate results in about 30 minutes for chlamydia, allowing patients to receive treatment immediately, thereby stemming the further spread of disease. Other analyses showed most women preferred the easy self-collection method the test offers.
Point-of-care (POC) testing eliminates the need for follow-up appointments since patients receive treatment at the time of diagnosis. Chlamydia has been identified by the World Health Organization as a sexually transmitted disease (STD) without an available POC test. “POC tests for STDs are making significant progress towards being highly sensitive, specific and easy to read within a short wait time.” said Tiffani Bailey Lash, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) programs in Point-of-Care Technologies and Connected Health (mHealth and Telehealth).
To help fill this healthcare void, a team at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Center for the Development of POC Tests for STDs, led by director Charlotte Gaydos, Dr. P.H., tested the binx health POC system at two clinics, in Maryland and Ohio. The study determined this POC test to accurately give a positive result 93 percent and a negative result 99 percent of the time.
With funding from NIBIB, the JHU Center selected binx health (formerly Atlas Genetics) as one of its first subgrantees to support the development and translation of this promising technology. Dr. Gaydos explained, “It takes time and money for POC technologies to get to the market. The goal of POC technology is to deliver quick results on a mobile platform, giving patients more options. A patient should be able to choose if he/she comes into a clinic, goes to a pharmacy, or takes a test at home for STD diagnosis; the bottom line is to encourage people to get tested.”
It is common for STDs to present without visible symptoms, so patients think they are healthy while, in fact, they are spreading STDs. Currently, patients who are tested for STDs typically receive their results anywhere from 2-14 days later, which contributes to the onward transmission and rapid spread of STDs. Studies have shown that even patients who have been tested have a low probability of returning to receive results, counseling, and proper treatment. Many patients don’t come back to the clinic for a follow-up appointment due to work or other obligations.
Another concern of doctors is the high number of patients who do not seek treatment for STDs due to privacy issues. In the future, POC tests may allow patients to collect a sample at home and send it in for testing. Dr. Gaydos said she was encouraged to observe that the majority (86%) of women in this study found self-collection in the clinic to be easy, and 70 percent preferred that method.
In this study, the samples were self-collected on a swab in the clinic and then placed into a liquid by a lab technician. The swabs were transported to a clinical lab and loaded into a disposable, hand-held cartridge. The lab technician inserted the cartridge into an instrument which has a user-friendly interface for processing and analysis. Each cartridge contains all the components necessary to complete the screening and deliver a positive negative, or indeterminate result in about 30 minutes.
In addition to the need for accurate and rapid test results, it is also important to consider a patient’s attitude toward a POC testing. In the study, researchers received completed questionnaires from 273 women who self-collected their sample for the POC test. If treatment was available before leaving the clinic, only 25 percent of women were willing to wait up to 40 minutes for their test result, but 61 percent were willing to wait 20 minutes or less. Most women (81%) were willing to pay $20 or less for a POC test. Almost all women (96%) would tell their partner the result of their test. “It was promising to see how well-received the test was among patients. I think the world has been waiting for a POC STD test and I am eager to be a part of continuing to develop new POC technology,” said Lash.
There is an urgent need to address the record high numbers of STDs reported by the Centers for Disease Control. In the U.S. alone there was a 10% increase in STDs between 2016 and 2017. Comprehensive studies like this one show the importance of understanding a patient’s attitude toward POC tests and identifying barriers. The results from this study show the need for a reasonably priced test and results delivered in about half an hour or less so patients get treatment before leaving the clinic. JHU and binx health have recently launched a clinical trial and anticipate the data obtained in the trial will help them achieve FDA-clearance for a Chlamydia and Gonorrhea POC test in the U.S. Gaydos envisions a mobile/digital health approach for patients who do not wish to attend a clinic or doctors’ office and are happy to self-collect a sample at home.
Citation : Lea E. Widdice et al. Performance of the Atlas Genetics Rapid Test for Chlamydia trachomatis and Womenʼs Attitudes Toward Point-Of-Care Testing, Sexually Transmitted Disease. DOI: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000865
Chlamydia is a common STD that can infect both men and women. It can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system. This can make it difficult or impossible for her to get pregnant later on. Chlamydia can also cause a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that occurs outside the womb).
How is chlamydia spread?
You can get chlamydia by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia.
If your sex partner is male you can still get chlamydia even if he does not ejaculate (cum).
If you’ve had chlamydia and were treated in the past, you can still get infected again. This can happen if you have unprotected sex with someone who has chlamydia.
How can I reduce my risk of getting chlamydia?
The only way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting chlamydia:
- Be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and has negative STD test results;
- Use latex condoms the right way every time you have sex.
Am I at risk for chlamydia?
Anyone who has sex can get chlamydia through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. However, sexually active young people are at a higher risk of getting chlamydia. This is due to behaviors and biological factors common among young people. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are also at risk since chlamydia can spread through oral and anal sex.
Have an honest and open talk with your health care provider. Ask whether you should be tested for chlamydia or other STDs. If you are a sexually active woman younger than 25 years, you should get a test for chlamydia every year. If you are an older woman with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has an STD, you should get a test for chlamydia every year. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men; as well as pregnant women should also get tested for chlamydia.
I’m pregnant. How does chlamydia affect my baby?
If you are pregnant and have chlamydia, you can pass the infection to your baby during delivery. This could cause an eye infection or pneumonia in your newborn. Having chlamydia may also make it more likely to deliver your baby too early.
If you are pregnant, you should get tested for chlamydia at your first prenatal visit. Testing and treatment are the best ways to prevent health problems.
How do I know if I have chlamydia?
Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner. Even when chlamydia causes no symptoms, it can damage your reproductive system.
Women with symptoms may notice
- An abnormal vaginal discharge;
- A burning sensation when urinating.
Symptoms in men can include
- A discharge from their penis;
- A burning sensation when urinating;
- Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (although this is less common).
Men and women can also get infected with chlamydia in their rectum. This happens either by having receptive anal sex, or by spread from another infected site (such as the vagina). While these infections often cause no symptoms, they can cause
- Rectal pain;
You should be examined by your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD. STD symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly discharge, burning when urinating, or bleeding between periods.
How will my doctor know if I have chlamydia?
Laboratory tests can diagnose chlamydia. Your health care provider may ask you to provide a urine sample or may use (or ask you to use) a cotton swab to get a sample from your vagina to test for chlamydia.
Can chlamydia be cured?
Yes, chlamydia can be cured with the right treatment. It is important that you take all of the medication your doctor prescribes to cure your infection. When taken properly it will stop the infection and could decrease your chances of having complications later on. You should not share medication for chlamydia with anyone.
Repeat infection with chlamydia is common. You should be tested again about three months after you are treated, even if your sex partner(s) was treated.
I was treated for chlamydia. When can I have sex again?
You should not have sex again until you and your sex partner(s) have completed treatment. If your doctor prescribes a single dose of medication, you should wait seven days after taking the medicine before having sex. If your doctor prescribes a medicine for you to take for seven days, you should wait until you have taken all of the doses before having sex.
What happens if I don’t get treated?
The initial damage that chlamydia causes often goes unnoticed. However, chlamydia can lead to serious health problems.
If you are a woman, untreated chlamydia can spread to your uterus and fallopian tubes (tubes that carry fertilized eggs from the ovaries to the uterus). This can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID often has no symptoms, however some women may have abdominal and pelvic pain. Even if it doesn’t cause symptoms initially, PID can cause permanent damage to your reproductive system. PID can lead to long-term pelvic pain, inability to get pregnant, and potentially deadly ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus).
Men rarely have health problems linked to chlamydia. Infection sometimes spreads to the tube that carries sperm from the testicles, causing pain and fever. Rarely, chlamydia can prevent a man from being able to have children.
Untreated chlamydia may also increase your chances of getting or giving HIV – the virus that causes AIDS.