A variety of STIs are caused by bacterial agents. We begin this section with a discussion of chlamydia, one of the most prevalent and damaging of all STIs. The other bacterial infections we describe are gonorrhea, nongonococcal urethritis, and syphilis. We discuss bacterial vaginosis, a common vaginal infection, in a later section of this chapter.

*The American Social Health Association’s STI Resource Center can be dialed toll-free from 8:00 a. m. to 8:00 p. m. on weekdays and from 10:00 a. m. to 6:00 p. m. on weekends, Pacific time. The number is (800) 227-8922.

Sexually Transmitted Infections


Urogenital infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.

Chlamydia Infection

Chlamydia (cluh-MID-ee-uh) is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, a bacterial micro­organism that grows in body cells. This organism is now recognized as the cause of a diverse group of genital infections and is a common cause of preventable blindness.

Incidence and Transmission

Chlamydia is the most frequently reported infectious disease in the United States (Powers et al., 2011; Workowski et al., 2010). Sexually active teenagers, especially females, have higher infection rates than any other age group (Powers et al., 2011). It appears that teenage girls and young women in their early 20s are especially susceptible to chlamydia infection, largely because their cervixes have not fully matured (Centers for Disease Control, 2009b).

Chlamydia infection is transmitted primarily through vaginal, anal, or oral sexual contact. It can also be spread by fingers from one body site to another, such as from the genitals to the eyes.

pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

An infection in the uterus and pelvic cavity.

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