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February 1999

Amplified DNA Testing for Sexually Transmitted Diseases: New Opportunities and New Questions

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999;153(2):111-113. doi:10.1001/archpedi.153.2.111

WHILE READING about the various new technologies being introduced into the field of pediatrics, I often find myself thinking, "If only the health problems of adolescents were amenable to such advances." At last, that is about to change. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first commercial DNA amplification tests for the detection of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae infections and more approvals will follow soon. Work on a polymerase chain reaction test for the detection of Trichomonas vaginalis is also well advanced. I do not think it hyperbole to say that the availability of these new tests will revolutionize our approach to the detection of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), a major cause of morbidity among adolescents, especially young women. The widespread availability of such tests could not come at a more auspicious time. Adolescents continue to have very high rates of STDs and current research indicates that STDs increase an individual's susceptibility to human immunodeficiency virus infection.1 Conversely, prospective studies have shown that screening for C trachomatis reduces the risk for developing pelvic inflammatory disease2 and that treatment of STDs can reduce incident cases of human immunodeficiency virus infection.3 Thus, control of STDs has never been more urgent.