Chlamydia screening for all pregnant women aged between 16 and 25 is cost-effective, according to an Australian study.
Currently, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence does not recommend screening as part of routine antenatal care.
“The advantage of incorporating chlamydia screening into antenatal care, means that chlamydia can be detected and treated promptly and there are no additional costs of attending another screening programme”
But researchers have noted that, as many women experience no symptoms from chlamydia infection, screening could help to identify and treat the infection before the development of complications such as neonatal pneumonia, low birth weight, miscarriage and premature birth.
The new study analysed the cost-effectiveness of chlamydia screening for all pregnant women between 16 and 25 versus no screening at all and selective screening for those at higher risk of contracting the infection.
The researchers said the data showed that implementing a screening programme where all pregnant women aged 16 to 25 years received a chlamydia test as part of their routine antenatal care would cost £767 for every additional chlamydia case detected and treated.
But they said it could avoid much larger costs of managing complications of undetected chlamydia, such as a low birth weight baby that may cost over £2,800, neonatal pneumonia that may cost up to £1,727 and pelvic inflammatory disease that may cost up to £1,699.
Additionally, the study results showed that when chlamydia prevalence was 3%, screening pregnant women between 16 and 25 was cost-effective and if chlamydia prevalence was higher than 11%, screening could result in cost savings to healthcare systems.
Study co-author Dr Jason Ong, from the University of Melbourne, said: “Our study has shown the cost-effectiveness of routine chlamydia screening for pregnant women aged 16 to 25 years in Australia and will strengthen current guidelines and persuade more healthcare professionals to implement screening locally.
“We may also be able to generalise our results to other settings with similar healthcare systems costs to Australia,” he said.
“The advantage of incorporating chlamydia screening into antenatal care, means that chlamydia can be detected and treated promptly and there are no additional costs of attending another screening programme,” he added.
The research has been published today in the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.