Restrictions placed on direct patient care and shifts to telehealth may explain the finding, which could lead to a possible future surge in sexually transmitted infection (STI) cases, researchers say.

This is the first national study to explore the impact of the pandemic on STIs since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared its analysis showing an all-time high level of cases in the United States in 2019.

Due to social distancing measures and supply constraints, CDC screening guidelines during the pandemic recommended halting STI tests except for patients exhibiting symptoms. However, researchers say these recommendations were detrimental, because risk-based screenings were paused, in favor of symptomatic testing, even though the majority of people (80%) with chlamydia or gonorrhea are asymptomatic.

Researchers reviewed more than 18 million STI test results from patients, ages 14-49, from January 2019 through June 2020, and found that the pandemic had an adverse impact on sexual health screening.

Data from the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, indicates that asymptomatic and at-risk individuals may not have received timely testing or treatment for STIs during the pandemic, resulting in missed cases.

Read the full article about the drop in STI testing rates by Barbara Schindo at Futurity.