New STI track, trace and treat method is so quick and easy – and solves a big problem

Every time I write about STIs, I always say be sure to give the names and addresses of sexual contacts to the health clinic so they can be traced and treated. But I’m not convinced this happens.

Well, researchers have come up with a world-first contact tracing method to identify, test and treat partners of people with chlamydia, quickly and easily. Chlamydia is one of the UK’s most common sexually transmitted infections (STI), affecting 250,000 people each year.

It’s difficult to keep track of as most people don’t have symptoms, but if left untreated it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. Yet it can be easily treated with antibiotics.

The new contact tracing method, ­Accelerated Partner Therapy (APT), involves healthcare professionals contacting sexual partners of people with chlamydia by phone before giving the patient a package of antibiotics and STI self-sampling kits to deliver to their partner.

This all happens when the patient is in the clinic getting treatment.

Theoretically, APT could test and treat any number of sexual partners but the trial showed it’s best suited to people in stable relationships, rather than one-off partners.

The research was led by Glasgow Caledonian ­University along with many universities and stakeholders.

Professor Claudia Estcourt, of University College London, who devised APT and set up the large-scale trial, said it could increase patient choice and be adapted for other STIs, and infectious diseases such as monkey pox and Covid-19.

Prof Estcourt believes that contact tracing and prompt treatment is key for people with chlamydia.

“It is really challenging to do well,” she said, adding the new process, “makes it easier and quicker for sex partners to get tested and treated”.

“In this world-first, large-scale trial of APT we show that it is safe, effective and likely to be cost-saving to the NHS.

“In these days of ever-increasing cost pressures, this is a real step forward in how we approach infectious diseases and STIs, and finding ways to help people notify their partners and offer them testing and treatment,” she added.

“We feel hugely proud because it is a really long process that takes years and we have followed the gold standard, Medical Research Council guidance, for ­development of complex ­interventions. The stages are very similar to developing a new drug.

“This study has been a shining example of multi-disciplinary working across clinical practice, academia, including experts in epidemiology, public health, mathematical ­modelling, health economics, health psychology, commissioning and health service planning.”