March 11, 2009

STDs in teen girls often not detected

Teenage girls have alarmingly high rates of sexually transmitted infections, largely undetected by recommended screening guidelines, Brazilian researchers say.

Maria de Fatima C. Alves and a team of researchers at the Federal Universities of Goias and Minas Gerais and the Family Health Program in Brazil investigated chlamydia and gonorrhea infections among sexually-active girls, ages 15-19 years in a socially-deprived region of the city of Goiania.

The researchers compared screening methods recommended by the World Health Organization and the Brazilian Ministry of Health against definitive laboratory methods.

They attempted to diagnose infection using the WHO risk assessment score -- a questionnaire concerning sexual practices, reproductive life and gynecological symptoms -- and a gynecological examination.

The study, reported in the journal BMC Medicine, found 32 percent of women with a confirmed infection were correctly identified using the WHO risk assessment.

The gynecological examination fared slightly better with a maximum sensitivity of 43.5 percent, the study found.

The low sensitivity of the risk assessment score should be of major public health concern and implies that it should not be used as a screening tool or a diagnostic test among asymptomatic or poorly symptomatic women, the study authors said in a statement.