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Sex Transm Infect. 2004 Oct; 80(5): 354–362.
PMCID: PMC1744901

Chlamydia trachomatis in the United Kingdom: a systematic review and analysis of prevalence studies


Objectives: To undertake a systematic review to obtain estimates of genital Chlamydia trachomatis prevalence in various populations in the United Kingdom and Ireland; to determine which populations have the highest rates of infection; and to explore the most important determinants of infection.

Methods: Electronic databases were searched using the keywords "chlamydia" and "England," "Wales," "UK," "Scotland," "Ireland," or "Britain." Additional unpublished data and references were solicited from experts. Studies were included in the analysis if C trachomatis prevalence was reported, and if they met inclusion criteria. Nine variables identified as potentially important descriptors of chlamydia prevalence were extracted from each study and analysed using various logistic regression models. Only studies reporting prevalence in female populations were included in the models, because there were few data from males.

Results: 357 studies were identified using the search methods, 90 of which met inclusion criteria, and 19 of which contributed to the final model. The most influential variables on prevalence were age and setting of the population tested. In general practice surgeries, the under 20 year old age group had an estimated prevalence of 8.1% (95% CI 6.5 to 9.9), 20–24 year olds 5.2% (95% CI 4.3 to 6.3), 25–29 year olds 2.6% (95% CI 2.0 to 3.3), decreasing to 1.4% (95% CI 1.0 to 1.9) in those aged over 30 years. Overall, healthcare settings had higher prevalence estimates than population based studies. For example, among under 20 year olds, estimates were 17.3% (95% CI 13.6 to 21.8) in genitourinary medicine clinics, 12.6% (95% CI 6.4 to 23.2) in antenatal clinics, 12.3% (95% CI 9.8 to 15.3) in termination of pregnancy clinics, 10.7% (95% CI 8.3 to 13.8) in youth clinics, 10.0% (95% CI 8.7 to 11.5) in family planning clinics, and 8.1% (95% CI 6.5 to 9.9) in general practice, compared to 5.0% (95% CI 3.2 to 7.6) in population based studies. The type of test, specimen used, date, and location of test were not strongly associated with chlamydia prevalence.

Conclusion: The chlamydia prevalence estimates by age and setting from the model may be used to inform chlamydia screening strategies. The systematic review revealed much heterogeneity in the studies identified, but with clear patterns of prevalence. It also indicated gaps in the knowledge about chlamydia prevalence in certain subgroups such as men and the general population.

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Selected References

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