Performance of urine leukocyte esterase in asymptomatic male youth: another look with nucleic acid amplification testing as the gold standard for Chlamydia detection

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Pediatrics

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Adolescent Behavior; Adult; Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases; Chlamydia Infections; Chlamydia trachomatis; Humans; Male; *Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques; Predictive Value of Tests; Reference Values; Sensitivity and Specificity; Sexual Behavior




PURPOSE: To re-evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of leukocyte esterase (LE) for screening adolescent and young adult males for Chlamydia trachomatis using a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) as the gold standard.

METHODS: This study was conducted at two Massachusetts Department of Youth Services sites and one Job Corps site. Recently admitted asymptomatic sexually active male youth aged 14 to 25 years (mean 16.6 years) were recruited between January 2001 and July 2003 (N = 1008). Participants provided first part voided urine specimens for testing with LE and Chlamydia NAAT. The sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive value of urine LE for identification of Chlamydia infection were determined using NAAT as the gold standard.

RESULTS: Fifty-seven (5.7%) participants were infected with Chlamydia as defined by a positive NAAT. Defining trace + as the LE cut point resulted in sensitivity and specificity of 57.9% and 78.3%, respectively. Defining 1+ as the cut point resulted in sensitivity and specificity of 47.4% and 96.1%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Urine leukocyte esterase is a moderately sensitive method to screen for Chlamydia. Nevertheless, a substantial proportion of infections are not detected with LE screening. When feasible, urine NAAT provides a much more sensitive and equally noninvasive method of detecting Chlamydia. However, if LE is used as an initial screen followed by NAAT confirmation of LE positive samples, we recommend using trace LE as the cut point for positive results.

DOI of Published Version



J Adolesc Health. 2005 Apr;36(4):337-41. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID