One test that could detect four of the most common sexually transmitted infections in 30 minutes and allow them to be rapidly treated, will be developed by St George’s, University of London and diagnostics company Atlas Genetics.

Chlamydia bacteria

A £150,000 grant from Innovate UK has been awarded to develop the test that will detect STI’s, including chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

Dr Tariq Sadiq, chief investigator at St George’s, University of London said it was a very exciting development in the STI world.

“The diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases has become very challenging for doctors and this new test will allow for patients to have their precise infection identified to enable treatment with the correct antibiotics, immediately after they see a doctor,” he said.

John Clarkson, CEO of Atlas Genetics, said the multiplex test will cover the majority of pathogens for patients entering sexual health clinics.

Aquarius Population Health will also collaborate on the project to see how cost effective the test is as well as on any potential patient impacts. The other STIs that will be detected include Trichomonas vaginalis and Mycoplasma genitalium.

Dr Sadiq leads the eSTI2 Consortium which has developed a new smartphone app which allows patients to access an electronic clinic, the eSexual Health Clinic, to get rapid online treatment for chlamydia infection once they were diagnosed.

Testing kits were sent out by the National Chlamydia Screening Programme aimed at those aged under 25 who did not have symptoms but wished to know they are clear of the infection. Their samples were then sent away for testing and those who tested positive for chlamydia were offered the opportunity to trial the new technology.

Chlamydia is the UK’s most common STI with about 100,000 cases diagnosed each year and people under 25 years old are most at risk.

If untreated, it can have serious long-term health consequences, including infertility in women. In some areas, one in five people never get treatment for their infection and others wait a long time before coming back to a clinic.

Using a secure NHS log in, the app included an online medical consultation, leading to an electronic prescription for antibiotics which patients could collect at a high street pharmacy. The app also enabled the patients’ sexual partners to get treatment quickly and easily in the same way. A clinical helpline is available for patients who need advice or support.

Eventually the eSexual Health Clinic will link to a hand held diagnostic device for STIs is also being developed by researchers. This will mean the a urine or swab sample from patients would not have to be sent away for analysis, but can be analysed at home so patients would receive their results within half an hour and then get their care online without ever needing to see a doctor face to face or attend a clinic.

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