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Clin Microbiol Rev. 1989 Apr;2(2):119-36.

Laboratory diagnosis of human chlamydial infections.

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  • 1Sexually Transmitted Diseases Laboratory Program, Center for Infectious Diseases, Atlanta, Georgia 30333.


Chlamydia trachomatis is a human pathogen that causes ocular disease (trachoma and inclusion conjunctivitis), genital disease (cervicitis, urethritis, salpingitis, and lymphogranuloma venereum), and respiratory disease (infant pneumonitis). Respiratory chlamydioses also occur with infection by avian strains of C. psittaci or infection by the newly described TWAR agent. Diagnosis of most acute C. trachomatis infections relies on detection of the infecting agent by cell culture, fluorescent antibody, immunoassay, cytopathologic, or nucleic acid hybridization methods. Individual non-culture tests for C. trachomatis are less sensitive and specific than the best chlamydial cell culture system but offer the advantages of reduced technology and simple transport of clinical specimens. Currently available nonculture tests for C. trachomatis perform adequately as screening tests in populations in which the prevalence of infection is greater than 10%. A negative culture or nonculture test for C. trachomatis does not, however, exclude infection. The predictive value of a positive nonculture test may be unsatisfactory when populations of low infection prevalence are tested. Tests that detect antibody responses to chlamydial infection have limited utility in diagnosis of acute chlamydial infection because of the high prevalence of persistent antibody in healthy adults and the cross-reactivity due to infection by the highly prevalent C. trachomatis and TWAR agents. Assays for changes in antibody titer to the chlamydial genus antigen are used for the diagnosis of respiratory chlamydioses. A single serum sample that is negative for chlamydial antibody excludes the diagnosis of lymphogranuloma venereum.

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