Sexually spread diseases continue to rise, with reported chlamydia cases setting yet another record in 2008, officials at the Centers for Disease Control recently reported. The CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new STD infections occur each year. Approximately half of them occur in young people between 15 to 24 years of age.
"Part of the challenge of treating a young person is to have them come back for a follow-up visit to get the diagnosis of an exam. During this waiting period, a patient can be sexually active, with one or multiple partners, thus contributing to the growing STD problem," says Larry Siebert, CEO of Chembio Diagnostics, a New York-based company that develops, manufactures, licenses and markets proprietary rapid diagnostic tests.
The standard syphilis tests, usually either the Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR) or Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL), followed by a more specific treponemal confirmatory (EIA) assay, keep the patient waiting two weeks for results.
According to Siebert this is far from ideal. "Individuals in high risk groups should be diagnosed at the point of care so as to provide the best chance for behavior modification, other prevention strategies and, where appropriate, treatment." Siebert went on to note that rapid, point-of-care (POC) tests such as those his company is developing for syphilis are an essential and integral part of any and all prevention programs.
"The newest technology for diagnosing syphilis allows for confirming an active, previously untreated case of syphilis at the point-of-care, allowing the attending physician to start a course of treatment immediately," says Siebert.
In the New York-metro area, the CDC says chlamydia cases spiked from 52,266 in 2004 to 80,306 in 2008, especially among women ages 15-24. Syphilis, nearly eradicated a decade ago, rose from 4,918 cases in 2004 to 6,097 in 2008, hitting young men who have sex with men. Syphilis cases among women rose 36 percent.
In addition to Chembio's two FDA-approved rapid tests for HIV, the company is developing the next generation of rapid STD tests using their patented Dual Path Platform technology. The company will begin testing these new products in early 2010 and include a new rapid oral fluid HIV test, a unique combination screen and confirm point-of-care test for syphilis, and a rapid oral fluid hepatitis C test.