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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2006 Dec;4(12 Suppl):S7-19.

Why do we need quality-assured diagnostic tests for sexually transmitted infections?

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  • 1WHO/TDR Sexually Transmitted Diseases Diagnostics Initiative (SDI), UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), 20 Avenue Appia, CH-1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland.


The bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs) syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia can all be cured with a single dose of antibiotic. Unfortunately, however, these infections often remain undiagnosed as many infected individuals have few if any symptoms. Diagnostic tests with high sensitivity and specificity are available for all three infections but, owing to their expense and the lack of laboratory capacity, most people in developing countries do not have access to these tests. There is a great need for simple, cheap diagnostic tests for STIs that can be performed at the point of care, enabling treatment to be given immediately. It is hoped that recent advances in our understanding of the pathogenesis of these infections, and the availability of the complete genome sequences for each causative organism, will lead to the development of improved point-of-care tests that will reduce the burden of these diseases in developing countries.

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