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Racial Differences in Chlamydia Reported

Researchers Say Socioeconomic Differences Are the Most Likely Cause
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The findings are reported in the May 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Miller says the most likely explanation for the racial disparity is economic. Blacks and Hispanics as a group have less access to health care than whites because they are more likely to be poor. As a result, they are less likely to be screened for the infection and to be treated with antibiotics for other reasons.

In an earlier study, Miller's research team found a low rate of chlamydial infections and a high rate of antibiotic use among middle- and upper-class teens being seen at a pediatric clinic.

"It takes a much higher level of (sickness) for people who have no health care to go see a doctor," Miller says. "A middle-class kid who takes doxycycline for his acne may be unknowingly treating a [chlamydial] infection. This is the kind of thing that over a long period of time can perpetuate this disparity."

Regional Differences

Miller says socioeconomic factors may also explain the regional differences in infection rates. Chlamydial infection was found in almost 5.5% of the young people living in the South, almost 4% among those living in the Midwest, 3% among those living in the West, and almost 2.5% among those living in the Northeast.

Eschenbach says a historical reluctance to call for the screening of all sexually active young people comes from the fact that older tests for chlamydia were more expensive and less accurate than the tests used today. He tells WebMD that it is time for the CDC and other health-care groups to revisit and broaden their screening guidelines.

"Clearly the data are there to suggest that you can save a lot of money and a lot of grief by screening people for this STD," he says.

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