We noted a marked increase in Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) infections in the Capital Health Region of NS coincident with substitution of a PCR for an enzyme immunoassay (EIA). We reviewed our experience to determine the cost of switching and the impact on the number of new infections diagnosed.
Information on the number of EIA and PCR tests performed on women was retrieved from an abstracted laboratory information database. We examined records of testing performed between April 1998 and December 2001. Prior to June 2001, all genital swabs were tested using the MicroTrak, II Chlamydia EIA and confirmed by direct fluorescence examination. After July 2001, genital swabs were tested using the COBAS AMPLICOR C. trachomatis test.
During the study period, 62,288 EIA tests were performed on specimens submitted; 2,061 (3.33%) were positive. In the six months when testing was performed by the PCR method, 9,559 PCR tests were performed, 463 (4.84%) were positive; 46% increase. In the three years before PCR testing was implemented, an average of 1,626 specimens were submitted monthly. An average of 54 tests were positive (3.3%). The cost for each positive detected by PCR was 208 dollars Cdn and 226 dollars by EIA.
The switch to PCR for the diagnosis of CT produced a marked increase in the number of chlamydia infections diagnosed. The recent increase in the number of reported CT cases in Canada may be due in large part to more sensitive tests. Surprisingly, the cost of each positive test by PCR was 18 dollars Cdn less than that of the EIA.