Scientists reveal new contact tracing method for sex partners of people with chlamydia

Digital health

Research involving Strathclyde has shown the effectiveness of a world-first contact tracing method to identify, test and treat sex partners of people with chlamydia – a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affects 250,000 people in the UK each year.

Accelerated Partner Therapy (APT) is a contact tracing method, in which healthcare professionals assess sex partners of people with chlamydia by phone before giving the patient a package of antibiotics and STI self-sampling kits to deliver to their partner.

The study, led by, Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU)  has been published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

It was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), a major funder of global health research and training that benefits the NHS, public health and social care.

The research also involved experts from University College London, the Universities of Brighton, Birmingham, Bern in Switzerland, along with UKHSA Health Protection Services, Health Promotion and Digital Services, University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, All East Sexual Health, Barts Health NHS Trust, The Royal London Hospital, Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

Patient need

Professor Paul Flowers from Strathclyde’s School of Psychological Sciences and Health, said:

APT is a straightforward intervention that directly meets both patient and professional need. It gets people tested and treated safely and quickly. We need to evaluate more pragmatic interventions like this to build better health and care futures and improve the NHS.

GCU sexual health expert and NHS consultant, Professor Claudia Estcourt, who led the development of APT and the large-scale trial said: “In this world-first, large-scale trial of APT we show that it is safe, effective and likely to be cost-saving to the NHS.

"In these days of ever-increasing cost pressures, this is a real step forward in how we approach infectious diseases and sexually transmitted infections, and finding ways to help people notify and get their partners tested and treated.

“This new method could be adapted within the NHS for other STIs and infectious diseases, such as Monkey Pox and COVID-19.”

Joint working

She added: “This study been a shining example of multi-disciplinary working across clinical practice, academia, epidemiology, public health, mathematical modelling, health economics, health psychology and commissioning and health planning.

“Without that very strong multi-disciplinary working we wouldn’t have got here. I am so grateful to have led this research and to all of the authors and their institutions because the strength of this is in the team and the disciplines it draws in and the joint working.”

A short film provides an overview of APT and the trial findings .