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OBJECTIVE: To update the 1984 recommendations of the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination on the routine screening of asymptomatic patients for infection with Chlamydia trachomatis. OPTIONS: Screening, with the use of culture or nonculture tests, of the general population, of certain high-risk groups or of all pregnant women; or no routine screening. OUTCOMES: Rates of asymptomatic and symptomatic chlamydial infection, perinatal complications, longterm complications of infection (i.e., pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancy), coinfection with other sexually transmitted diseases, disease spread, hospital care, complications of therapy and costs of infection and of screening. EVIDENCE: Search of MEDLINE for articles published between Jan. 1, 1983, and Dec. 31, 1995, with the use of the major MeSH heading "chlamydial infections," references from recent review articles and recommendation by other organizations. VALUES: The evidence-based methods of the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination were used. Advice from reviewers and experts and recommendations of other organizations were taken into consideration. Prevention of symptomatic disease and decreased overall costs were given high values. BENEFITS, HARMS AND COSTS: The greatest potential benefits of screening asymptomatic patients for chlamydial infections are the prevention of complications, especially infertility and perinatal complications, and the prevention of disease spread. There is no evidence that screening of the general population for chlamydial infections leads to a reduction in complications, and screening may increase costs. However, there is evidence that annual screening of selected high-risk groups and of pregnant women during the first trimester is beneficial in preventing symptoms and reducing the overall cost resulting from infection. RECOMMENDATIONS: There is fair evidence to support screening and treatment of pregnant women during the first trimester (grade B recommendation) as well as annual screening and treatment of high-risk groups (sexually active women less than 25 years of age, men or women with new or multiple sexual partners during the preceding year, women who use nonbarrier contraceptive methods and women who have symptoms of chlamydial infection: cervical friability, mucopurulent cervical discharge or intermenstrual bleeding; grade B recommendation). There is fair evidence to exclude routine screening of the general population (grade D recommendation). VALIDATION: These recommendations are similar to those of the US Preventive Services Task Force and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta. SPONSOR: These guidelines were developed and endorsed by the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination, which is funded by Health Canada and the National Health Canada and the National Health Research and Development Program. The principal author (H.D.D.) was supported in part by the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Canadian Infectious Diseases Society Lilly Fellowship.