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Protecting yourself from the silent STD.

Byline: Miriam Stoppard

Chlamydia is a tricky STD and it's on the rise. It's silent, particularly among men, and it's the most common STI. It's the world's most common cause of infertility, even though it's preventable.

But, and it's a big but, half of all men who have it don't know and four out of five women are similarly ignorant. This is bad news. Left untreated the disease can cause problems like ectopic pregnancy and painful infections of the testicles.

Chlamydia is a bacterium found in semen and vaginal fluids and is spread through vaginal, oral and anal sex or by sharing sex toys. It can live inside the cells of the cervix, urethra, rectum and sometimes the throat and eyes.

The bug can cross the placenta meaning a pregnant woman could potentally pass it on to her unborn baby.

Symptoms can appear a few weeks after the bug is caught but may also take months. These include unusual vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods or after sex, pain during sex and maybe lower abdominal pain. Men may feel pain when urinating and in the testicles.

If you have any suspicions that you've got chlamydia it's vitally important to get tested.

Any woman having an IUD fitted or having an abortion should also have a chlamydia screening test.

They take several forms: a urine test, or a swab from the vagina, urethra, rectum, or throat and eyes.

While chlamydia is tricky to spot, it's easy to deal with. Antibiotics can work, although the Pill and contraceptive patches make them less effective.

And there will soon be a vaccine to help you protect yourself as scientists at Southampton University have broken into the bacterium's genetic code.

Together with researchers at Israel's Ben-Gurion University, they have inserted foreign DNA into the bug's genome, which means they will soon be able to map out its whole genetic code and eventually fashion a vaccine.

In the meantime, an anti-chlamydia vaccine is being used on koala bears, which often carry the bug.

The positive results this has produced so far could stop the koala population disseminating the disease, as many in the science world fear.

Chlamydia is tricky to spot but easy to deal with
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion, Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 12, 2012
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