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Self-Study STD Module - Chlamydia

Diagnostic Methods

The selection of a laboratory test to detect the presence of C. trachomatis is a critical component of disease management and prevention. The testing technology has changed significantly over the past 10 years and represents a substantial improvement in sensitivity and ease of specimen collection.

Chlamydia Diagnostics
  • Culture
  • Non-Culture
    • Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs)
    • Non-Amplification Tests
    • Serology

Tests include both culture and non-culture diagnostics. The most commonly used newer non-culture tests are nucleic acid detection tests, which are used for both diagnosis and screening.


For many years, cell culture to detect C. trachomatis was the most sensitive and specific method available. Because of its high specificity, cell culture remains the recommended method for evaluating cases of suspected sexual assault and sexual abuse.

Unfortunately, cell culture is expensive, has a lower sensitivity than amplification tests (50%-80%), is difficult to standardize, has a long turnaround time, is technically complex, and has stringent transport requirements in terms of both time and temperature. Cell culture requires the collection of columnar cells from relevant anatomical site(s).

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Page last modified: December, 2009
Page last reviewed: December, 2009

Content Source:Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention

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