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Study shows that proactive screening for chlamydia in young adults using home-collected specimens was feasible and acceptable but high response rates were difficult to achieve; mixed approaches should be evaluated to see if they bring higher uptake than adopting a single screening strategy.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To investigate epidemiological, social, diagnostic and economic aspects of chlamydia screening in non-genitourinary medicine settings.

METHODS

Linked studies around a cross-sectional population-based survey of adult men and women invited to collect urine and (for women) vulvovaginal swab specimens at home and mail these to a laboratory for testing for Chlamydia trachomatis. Specimens were used in laboratory evaluations of an amplified enzyme immunoassay (PCE EIA) and two nucleic acid amplification tests [Cobas polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Becton Dickinson strand displacement amplification (SDA)]. Chlamydia-positive cases and two negative controls completed a risk factor questionnaire. Chlamydia-positive cases were invited into a randomised controlled trial of partner notification strategies. Samples of individuals testing negative completed psychological questionnaires before and after screening. In-depth interviews were conducted at all stages of screening. Chlamydia transmission and cost-effectiveness of screening were investigated in a transmission dynamic model.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS

General population in the Bristol and Birmingham areas of England. In total, 19,773 women and men aged 16-39 years were randomly selected from 27 general practice lists.

RESULTS

Screening invitations reached 73% (14,382/19,773). Uptake (4731 participants), weighted for sampling, was 39.5% (95% CI 37.7, 40.8%) in women and 29.5% (95% CI 28.0, 31.0%) in men aged 16-39 years. Chlamydia prevalence (219 positive results) in 16-24 year olds was 6.2% (95% CI 4.9, 7.8%) in women and 5.3% (95% CI 4.4, 6.3%) in men. The case-control study did not identify any additional factors that would help target screening. Screening did not adversely affect anxiety, depression or self-esteem. Participants welcomed the convenience and privacy of home-sampling. The relative sensitivity of PCR on male urine specimens was 100% (95% CI 89.1, 100%). The combined relative sensitivities of PCR and SDA using female urine and vulvovaginal swabs were 91.8% (86.1, 95.7, 134/146) and 97.3% (93.1, 99.2%, 142/146). A total of 140 people (74% of eligible) participated in the randomised trial. Compared with referral to a genitourinary medicine clinic, partner notification by practice nurses resulted in 12.4% (95% CI -3.7, 28.6%) more patients with at least one partner treated and 22.0% (95% CI 6.1, 37.8%) more patients with all partners treated. The health service and patients costs (2005 prices) of home-based postal chlamydia screening were 21.47 pounds (95% CI 19.91 pounds, 25.99) per screening invitation and 28.56 pounds (95% CI 22.10 pounds, 30.43) per accepted offer. Preliminary modelling found an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (2003 prices) comparing screening men and women annually to no screening in the base case of 27,000 pounds/major outcome averted at 8 years. If estimated screening uptake and pelvic inflammatory disease incidence were increased, the cost-effectiveness ratio fell to 3700 pounds/major outcome averted.

CONCLUSIONS

Proactive screening for chlamydia in women and men using home-collected specimens was feasible and acceptable. Chlamydia prevalence rates in men and women in the general population are similar. Nucleic acid amplification tests can be used on first-catch urine specimens and vulvovaginal swabs. The administrative costs of proactive screening were similar to those for opportunistic screening. Using empirical estimates of screening uptake and incidence of complications, screening was not cost-effective.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To investigate epidemiological, social, diagnostic and economic aspects of chlamydia screening in non-genitourinary medicine settings.

METHODS

Linked studies around a cross-sectional population-based survey of adult men and women invited to collect urine and (for women) vulvovaginal swab specimens at home and mail these to a laboratory for testing for Chlamydia trachomatis. Specimens were used in laboratory evaluations of an amplified enzyme immunoassay (PCE EIA) and two nucleic acid amplification tests [Cobas polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Becton Dickinson strand displacement amplification (SDA)]. Chlamydia-positive cases and two negative controls completed a risk factor questionnaire. Chlamydia-positive cases were invited into a randomised controlled trial of partner notification strategies. Samples of individuals testing negative completed psychological questionnaires before and after screening. In-depth interviews were conducted at all stages of screening. Chlamydia transmission and cost-effectiveness of screening were investigated in a transmission dynamic model.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS

General population in the Bristol and Birmingham areas of England. In total, 19,773 women and men aged 16-39 years were randomly selected from 27 general practice lists.

RESULTS

Screening invitations reached 73% (14,382/19,773). Uptake (4731 participants), weighted for sampling, was 39.5% (95% CI 37.7, 40.8%) in women and 29.5% (95% CI 28.0, 31.0%) in men aged 16-39 years. Chlamydia prevalence (219 positive results) in 16-24 year olds was 6.2% (95% CI 4.9, 7.8%) in women and 5.3% (95% CI 4.4, 6.3%) in men. The case-control study did not identify any additional factors that would help target screening. Screening did not adversely affect anxiety, depression or self-esteem. Participants welcomed the convenience and privacy of home-sampling. The relative sensitivity of PCR on male urine specimens was 100% (95% CI 89.1, 100%). The combined relative sensitivities of PCR and SDA using female urine and vulvovaginal swabs were 91.8% (86.1, 95.7, 134/146) and 97.3% (93.1, 99.2%, 142/146). A total of 140 people (74% of eligible) participated in the randomised trial. Compared with referral to a genitourinary medicine clinic, partner notification by practice nurses resulted in 12.4% (95% CI -3.7, 28.6%) more patients with at least one partner treated and 22.0% (95% CI 6.1, 37.8%) more patients with all partners treated. The health service and patients costs (2005 prices) of home-based postal chlamydia screening were 21.47 pounds (95% CI 19.91 pounds, 25.99) per screening invitation and 28.56 pounds (95% CI 22.10 pounds, 30.43) per accepted offer. Preliminary modelling found an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (2003 prices) comparing screening men and women annually to no screening in the base case of 27,000 pounds/major outcome averted at 8 years. If estimated screening uptake and pelvic inflammatory disease incidence were increased, the cost-effectiveness ratio fell to 3700 pounds/major outcome averted.

CONCLUSIONS

Proactive screening for chlamydia in women and men using home-collected specimens was feasible and acceptable. Chlamydia prevalence rates in men and women in the general population are similar. Nucleic acid amplification tests can be used on first-catch urine specimens and vulvovaginal swabs. The administrative costs of proactive screening were similar to those for opportunistic screening. Using empirical estimates of screening uptake and incidence of complications, screening was not cost-effective.

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