Scientists at the University of Southampton have found a more diverse strain of Chlamydia in a high student population area of Southampton city.
Researchers reviewed over 3,118 samples provided at the main sexual health clinic in the city. Of the 380 samples that tested positive for sexually transmitted infection, they then analysed the genotypes in the DNA.
They found a high number of different genotypes in the samples provided by residents of the SO17 postcode – Portswood. In comparison, samples from other postcodes of the city including SO14, 15, 16, 18 and 19 were all pre-known strands of the STI.
The majority of diagnosed Chlamydia cases in England last year were young people aged 16 to 24. This particular STI does not usually produce symptoms and can frequently go undiagnosed which can lead to long term detrimental side effects such as infertility and ectopic pregnancy.
The research purpose was guided by the hope that being able to identity locations of different strains of sexually transmitted infections can then be used to target efforts to provide effective educational programmes and ultimately reduce the number of infections.
The research lead, Dr Peter Marsh, honorary visiting research fellow at the University of Southampton and Clinical Scientist in response to the results commented:
There are clearly strains of Chlamydia which represent well-established and widespread sexual networks, but there are also sporadic strains implying different sexual networks which might be small and short-lived. These represent introductions of new strains into the community from elsewhere. Whereas interventions to reduce STIs in established and widespread networks should be broad national strategies, such as educational programmes, there should also be targeted surveillance and interventions to identify such short-lived and sporadic networks.
The study, which was originally performed by former PhD student Clare Labiran and is published in PLOS ONE, was carried out in collaboration with Public Health England (PHE) and Solent NHS Trust.
PHE recommends all sexually active under 25-year-olds get screened for Chlamydia every year and on change of sexual partner. Anyone who thinks they may have a STI should go to their GP or local sexual health clinic. Solent Sexual Health provides an integrated Sexual Health Service for residents of Southampton which incorporates booked appointments, same day access to clinics, online booking and online Sexual transmitted infection testing service.