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Lab: Are false positive results in Chlamydia diagnosis possible?



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3rd April 2012

It can be difficult to interpret the significance of a positive Chlamydia test result in a child. However, given the serious possible implications for all involved, even a really low rate of false positive results can have considerable negative consequences. In spite of this, there is currently very little literature on the environmental contamination of diagnostic samples with C. trachomatis, or on the possibility of a child having a uro-genital Chlamydia infection in the absence of a history of sexual activity. Concerns by clinical staff of the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) regarding an increasingly high occurrence of uro-genital C. trachomatis diagnosis in children, motivated a collaboration with Menzies School of Health Research, with the aim of addressing this issue by determining if toilet cubicles, used for the collection of diagnostic samples, are contaminated with C. trachomatis, and whether this contaminating material can, in turn, contaminate diagnostic samples.  This is being addressed in the first instance by swabbing various surfaces in the toilet cubicles of primary health care facilities, and in the second instance, through transferring synthetic urine from one container to another, while in the same cubicles. Swabs and synthetic urine samples are then subjected to standard C. trachomatis diagnostic procedures. Using this method, we are also looking at N. Gonorrhoea and T. vaginalis. The study encompasses both urban and regional/remote primary health care clinics, with multiple sampling in all clinics involved occurring over a two year period.
Phil Giffard is the Head of Laboratory Science at Menzies. His research career has encompassed bacterial genetics, physiology and population biology and the development of genetic analysis technologies. Since coming to Menzies in 2008, his focus has been upon infectious diseases that  particularly challenge the population of the Northern Territory.