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Pregnant women between 16 and 25 should be routinely tested for chlamydia

Pregnant women between 16 and 25 should be routinely tested for chlamydia

Pregnant women between the ages of 16 and 25 should be routinely tested for chlamydia, health experts have said.

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and can lead to complications for both mother and baby, including neonatal pneumonia, low birth weight, miscarriage and premature birth.

A study carried out in Australia, where prevalence rates range from 3% to 14% among pregnant women aged 16-25, concluded that screening of the group was cost-effective when compared with the risks of not doing so.

Australia and the United States already have such screening programmes in place, but it is not recommended as part of routine antenatal care in the UK.

The research, which is published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, analysed the cost-effectiveness of chlamydia screening, no screening at all, and selective screening for those at higher risk of contracting the infection.

They found that implementing a screening programme where all pregnant women aged 16 to 25 received a chlamydia test as part of their routine antenatal care would cost the equivalent of £767 in Australia for every additional case detected and treated.

This could avoid much larger costs of complications of undetected chlamydia, such as managing a low birth weight baby, which may cost more than £2,800, neonatal pneumonia, which could be up to £1,727, or pelvic inflammatory disease at as much as £1,699.

Additionally, results show that when chlamydia prevalence is 3%, screening pregnant women between 16 and 25 is cost-effective and if chlamydia prevalence was higher than 11%, screening could result in cost savings to the Australian healthcare system.

Study co-author Dr Jason Ong, from the University of Melbourne, said: "Our study has shown the cost-effectiveness of routine chlamydia screening for pregnant women aged 16 to 25 years in Australia and will strengthen current guidelines and persuade more healthcare professionals to implement screening locally.

"We may also be able to generalise our results to other settings with similar healthcare systems costs to Australia.

"The advantage of incorporating chlamydia screening into antenatal care means that chlamydia can be detected and treated promptly and there are no additional costs of attending another screening programme."