Welsh Government
Faster STI testing to be trialled in Wales

Faster STI testing to be trialled in Wales

14 January 2020

Wales will be the first part of the UK to trial new NHS tests which could speed up the diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by providing results within hours.

The new trial, part funded by Health and Care Research Wales, is designed to improve patient care by offering new rapid diagnostic testing for STIs which will deliver results in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks.

In addition the tests being researched can also show the most appropriate antibiotic needed to treat the patient’s infection.

Dr Lucy Jones, Associate Specialist in Sexual Health at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and Dr Brad Spiller, Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, are leading the collaborative research.

“Sexually transmitted infections are rising across the UK, year on year, and we’re at the forefront of antibiotic resistance as well,” said Dr Jones.

“Many of the infections we see in sexual health, like mycoplasma and gonorrhoea, are resistant to lots of antibiotics, so that’s where our research interests spring from.”

The trial will look at how new rapid diagnostic testing could improve patient care by:

  • Delivering results in a few hours
  • Indicating which specific antibiotic is needed to treat infections, supporting the reduction of cases of antibiotic resistance
  • Providing the opportunity for patients to resolve their symptoms quickly and reduce the chances of passing the infection on

The study will run for the next two years in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board area.

“We’ll be recruiting patients on to the trial and offering them the opportunity for them to have this new test,” continued Dr Jones. “Rather than waiting two weeks for their results to come back for mycoplasma bacteria and gonorrhoea, within four to five hours we’ll be able to phone them at home and tell them what the results are and we’ll know which antibiotic to give them to treat the infection successfully.

“As a sexual health doctor, I want to offer my patients the opportunity to get their results back as quickly as possible and I also want to be able to give them the antibiotics they need. I want to be able to protect the antibiotics we’ve got so we don’t feed these superbugs so that they become more and more of a problem with a regard to antibiotic resistance.”

Health and Care Research Wales funds research across the NHS in Wales, as well as research staff in health boards.

Professor Kieran Walshe, Director of Health and Care Research Wales, said:

“Patients are at the centre of every research study that we fund so it’s great to see how this idea could really make a difference to people. It’s just one example of the excellent research taking place in Wales right now.”

Professor John Geen, Assistant Director of Research and Development (R&D) at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, added:

“It is very rewarding for the Cwm Taf Morgannwg R&D department to be able to provide support for high-quality, funded collaborative research to our expert clinical researchers such as Dr Jones and academic partners such as Dr Spiller.

“The current research forms part of a programme of work that has evolved to the current interventional study which has the potential to benefit many patients through rapid diagnosis and management, but which also addresses a key health priority of the increasing risks of antimicrobial resistance.”