Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Screening in the U.S

Casey N Pinto, Justin K Niles, Harvey W Kaufman, Elizabeth M Marlowe, Damian P Alagia, Guangqing Chi, Barbara Van Der Pol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: This study evaluates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on testing for common sexually transmitted infections. Specifically, changes are measured in chlamydia and gonorrhea testing and case detection among patients aged 14-49 years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: U.S. chlamydia and gonorrhea testing and positivity were analyzed on the basis of >18.6 million tests (13.6 million tests for female patients and 4.7 million tests for male patients) performed by a national reference clinical laboratory from January 2019 through June 2020.

RESULTS: Chlamydia and gonorrhea testing reached a nadir in early April 2020, with decreases (relative to the baseline level) of 59% for female patients and 63% for male patients. Declines in testing were strongly associated with increases in weekly positivity rates for chlamydia (R2=0.96) and gonorrhea (R2=0.85). From March 2020 through June 2020, an expected 27,659 (26.4%) chlamydia and 5,577 (16.5%) gonorrhea cases were potentially missed.

CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted routine sexually transmitted infection services, suggesting an increase in syndromic sexually transmitted infection testing and missed asymptomatic cases. Follow-up analyses will be needed to assess the long-term implications of missed screening opportunities. These findings should serve as a warning for the potential sexual and reproductive health implications that can be expected from the overall decline in testing and potential missed cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - May 18 2021

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