Sexually Transmitted Diseases – Chlamydia & Gonorrhea

As the term specifies, a sexually transmitted disease is one that is predominantly transmitted via sexual contact. In this article we will cover Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.  Although there are ways to get tested confidentially, please be sure to contact your doctor if you suspect that you are infected.  Ultimately knowing you have the disease is only the first step.  You must seek prompt treatment to prevent damage to your body and infection to others.


Chlamydia is the most common std (sexually transmitted disease) reported to the CDC in the USA as of 2010.  The disease caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia tracomatis. The infection, if left untreated, may cause damage to women's reproductive organs and therefore impact their ability to have children. However, this infection is easily treated with antibiotics if caught early.

Common Symptoms -  Here is the biggest problem, most infected people who  do not know it because this infection has no symptoms.  Because of this reason, it is known as a "silent" disease.  If symptoms do occur they come after 1-3 weeks of exposure and involve discharge or burning while urination for both men and women.  However, these symptoms are rare.  In most cases, infection spreads without people being aware that they have a disease.  It's going unnoticed also contributes its wide-spread.

There are various ways of detection of either the bacteria or associated antibodies. The most commonly known are:

Tissue culture - requiring special transport media and performed in the microbiology laboratory.

Cytology - microscopic examination of tissue cells infected with bacteria.

Enzyme Immunoassay (EIA) – tests in blood samples used as a rapid screen test.

Nucleic Acid DNA probe – this is the method of choice for genital swab specimens.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) – most sensitive test for the presence of the bacteria, recommended for urine specimens.


Gonorrhea is a  caused by a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhea can also be transmitted to an infant of infected mother via passing through the birth canal. This infection is easily treated with antibiotic. If left untreated, it can cause serious health complications in both men and women.  In women it can impact their ability to have children.

Common Symptoms  - Symptoms usually begin within 2 weeks of infection.  However, some people, especially women, can have very mild symptoms that could be confused with other conditions like a urinary track infection.  Symptoms can include burning sensation when urinating and or a white, yellow or green discharge.   Moreover, symptoms depend on which part of the body is infected since Gonorrhea can infect the anus, eyes, mouth, genitals or throat. Therefore, if you suspect an infection, it is best to go to your doctor to seek testing and treatment.

Various laboratory tests are available and usually performed in the microbiology laboratory:

Microscopic Examination – a quick sample using a swab obtained from a sore can be stained with Gram Stain and observed under the microscope. This test may also be performed in a doctor’s office.

Gonorrhea culture – a swab sample from infected area combined with fluid media that promotes growth.

Nucleic Acid DNA probe – detects genetic material of the bacteria. This is the method of choice for samples from cervix or urethra. This test is often performed in combination with Chlamydia.

Polymerase Chair Reaction (PCR) - detects genetic material of the bacteria. Very accurate test mostly recommended for urine specimens.

There is a panel called Chlamydia/Gonococcus that includes both of these tests and is done from a urine sample.   Once again, please be sure to contact your doctor if you suspect an infection.

PAP smear showing Chlamydia infection
Credit: NCI