Doctor's Responses Archive

Question: Chlamydia, can it be acquired other than through sexual contact, ie as it is a bacteria can it be acquired from hotpools, unsterile medical procedures (papsmears) etc AND Can an persons without symptoms who carry the bacteria (long term Chlamydia infection lying dormant) suddenly turn into an acute infection, or can an acute infection only occur from a recent infection? Thank you.

Answer: Chlamydia is an organism that has very specific requirements that allow it to exist in the cervix, urethra, and fallopian tube. (It also can also infect the cornea of the eye.) Because of these specific requirements, chlamydia cannot live outside the body, such as on toilet seats, bath towels or bed linens. If there was a droplet of body fluid containing chlamydia, and this were left on a towel or toilet seat, then it is conceivable that if it were not there too long (did not dry out), then it might be possible to have the organism transmitted to another person. However, just because chlamydia touches your skin or buttocks, this is not sufficient for you to get the infection. The organism would have to come in contact with suitable body tissue such as the cervix, urethra or cornea of the eye to survive.

Chlamydia cannot be transmitted in hotpools because of the extensive dilution that would occur in the water, and the chlorine present in most tubs. Pap smears would also not cause the infection since a new collection spatula is used for each patient and thus it does not have to be sterile.

Chlamydia can lie dormant in the body for many years causing a low grade infection without symptoms. It could potentially flare up to cause a symptomatic infection, especially if there is an alteration in the persons immune system, such as a severe cold or flu, cancer or some other severe illness.


Last Editorial Review: 10/20/2000