Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q) have discovered unexpectedly high levels of chlamydia infection among the general population in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), and higher levels still among women in the region who are infertile or suffer pregnancy complications.
Chlamydia is a bacterial reproductive tract infection that is often symptomless, and which is usually, but not always, transmitted sexually.
When a woman acquires the infection, the pathogen travels to the internal reproductive organs, damaging them and making it difficult for an infected woman to conceive a baby.
If an infected woman does manage to conceive, the infection can cause miscarriage or preterm labour and delivery, or the baby can be infected leading to low birth weight or death of the foetus before delivery.
Chlamydia can also cause neonatal infections such as conjunctivitis and pneumonia in babies after birth.
The study, Epidemiology of Chlamydia trachomatis in the Middle East and North Africa: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression’, was conducted at WCM-Q with funding from Qatar National Research Fund, a Qatar Foundation member, through the National Priorities Research Programme (NPRP 9-040-3-008). Funding was also provided by the WCM-Q Biomedical Research Programme (BMRP).
Despite chlamydia infection being well-studied globally, the rates in the Mena region were poorly known before the WCM-Q study, which was conducted by the college’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group (IDEG).
The study indicated that 3% of the population of the Mena region is currently infected with the chlamydia bacteria, a rate comparable to that found in other regions.
The rates of infection were also found to be stable for at least the last three decades.
Despite this pressing health problem, there are virtually no public health programmes in Mena countries to tackle chlamydia infection. - QNA
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