May 28 (UPI) -- Many teen girls who get infected with gonorrhea and chlamydia aren't taking antibiotics to treat those conditions, even though nearly half of sexually transmitted infection diagnoses come from that age group.
Only 54.1 percent of young women who received a diagnosis for a sexually transmitted infection in the emergency department had prescriptions filled for antimicrobial therapy to treat the condition, according to a research letter published Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics.
"We were astonished to find that teenagers' rates of filling STI prescriptions were so low," says Monika K. Goyal, assistant chief of Children's National Health and the study senior author, in a news release. "Our findings demonstrate the imperative need to identify innovative methods to improve treatment adherence for this high-risk population."
The retrospective cohort study took place in two emergency departments and included girls between ages 13 and 19 from the beginning of 2016 to the end of 2017.
Of 696 teens who visited the emergency department, 208 received prescriptions after being diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease or chlamydia. They received antimicrobial prescriptions to treat those conditions, but just 54.1 percent filled them.
Untreated STIs in women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection in the reproductive organs that can harm the chance of getting pregnant later in life.
In the future, the researchers say they will launch new studies to investigate the obstacles that prevent teens from filling prescriptions. Then they will set up emergency department interventions that encourage them to take STI treatments.
"Teenagers may face a number of hurdles when it comes to STI treatment, including out-of-pocket cost, access to transportation and confidentiality concerns," Goyal said.