Espying bacteria

Scientists at Abbott laboratories, Illinois, have found a new way to detect the most common sexually transmitted infectious bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, which can cause pelvic inflammation and even infertility (Lancet Press Release, January 25, 1995). The test, known as the ligase chain reaction, detects the bacterium in a urine sample and is more reliable than the expensive conventional method of screening, which involves taking cells from the urethra and culturing the bacterium.

The Abbott team led by Helen Lee reported that from a sample of 2,000 women, with and without symptoms of being infected, the new test could detect nearly 94 per cent of the women carrying the bacterium while the culture method could catch only 65 per cent.