Chlamydia Patients Who Receive Treatment for Themselves, Partners Have Lower Rates of Reinfection, Study Says
Chlamydia patients who receive treatment for themselves and treatment for their sex partner are more likely to avoid reinfection than those who only obtain treatment for themselves, according to a study published this month in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that is easily treated and cured with one dose of azithromycin, but there is a great risk of continued transmission and reinfection because 75% of women and 50% of men with chlamydia carry the bacterium without exhibiting symptoms. As many as one-fifth of women treated for the disease contract it again within six months, according to previous studies. In addition, untreated chlamydia infection can lead to more serious complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal pregnancies and infertility, as well as an increased susceptibility to HIV (Pope, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 1/21). The study provided half of the 1,787 female participants, each of whom was diagnosed with chlamydia, with an extra dose of medication to administer to their sex partners and asked the other group of participants -- the "self-referral group" -- to refer their sex partners to a doctor to be treated for chlamydia infection. The study found that the risk of reinfection for the study participants was 20% lower among women who delivered treatment to their partners than among those in the "self-referral" group. According to the study, 82% of women who got treatment for their sexual partners reported that their partners complied with the recommended treatment. Although only 12% of the women in the patient-delivered partner treatment group were reinfected with chlamydia, compared to 15% in the partner referral group, the study authors concluded that the difference between the two groups was not statistically significant and that the patient-delivered treatment method is comparable to that of self-referral and "may be an appropriate option for some patients" (Schillinger et al., Sexually Transmitted Diseases, January 2003). However, putting this treatment method into practice would require a change in some state laws, as most states currently require a doctor to examine patients before prescribing medications for them. Brobson Lutz, spokesperson for the Orleans Parish Medical Society in Louisiana, said that such a legislative change would be unlikely in Louisiana because doctors would be liable if the unseen patient reacted negatively to the drug. However, in California, where patient-delivered treatment for chlamydia became legal two years ago, clinics have received no reports of adverse reactions (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 1/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.