Is Screening for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in Men Who Have Sex With Men Associated With Reduction of the Prevalence of these Infections? A Systematic Review of Observational Studies

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Abstract

Background

Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonorrhea) could become untreatable in the near future. Indeed, while the treatment of symptomatic gonorrhea in core groups, such men who have sex with men (MSM), is crucial for gonorrhea control programs, screening for and treating asymptomatic gonorrhea/Chlamydia trachomatis(chlamydia) in MSM may contribute to antibiotic resistance in gonorrhea. In this systematic review, we aim to assess if there is evidence that screening MSM for gonorrhea/chlamydia is associated with a decline in the prevalence of these infections.

Methods

We conducted a systematic review in PubMed and Web of Science for relevant studies including uncontrolled observational studies and reported the results following the PRISMA guidelines. The change in estimated prevalences for chlamydia and gonorrhea across the different time points for 3 anatomical sites (oral, urethral and anal) were collected and examined.

Results

Twelve studies met our entry criteria. We were able to statistically assess the change in prevalence in 10 of 12 studies. In 3 studies, there was a significant increase in chlamydia prevalence, whereas for gonorrhea, 2 studies reported a significant increase and 2 others a decrease. Our review provides little evidence that screening for gonorrhea and chlamydia in MSM has an effect on the prevalence of these infections. No evidence was found that more frequent screening reduces prevalence more effectively than annual screening.

Conclusions

Our study was not able to provide evidence that screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea lowers the prevalence of these infections in MSM. Randomized controlled trials are required to assess the risks and benefits of gonorrhea/chlamydia screening in high- and low-risk MSM.

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