Cervical and ocular swabs from 100 mother/newborn pairs delivering on the clinic service were assayed for Chlamydia trachomatis with standard McCoy cell culture and with standard and biotinylated polymerase chain reaction techniques, using primers directed against the major outer membrane protein gene and C. trachomatis-specific cryptic plasmid, respectively. Using the polymerase chain reaction, 20 (20%) mothers and seven (7%) neonates were positive for Chlamydia. All neonates positive by polymerase chain reaction were from mothers positive by polymerase chain reaction, yielding a 35% transmission rate. Only five of 20 (25%) mothers and two of seven (28%) neonates positive by polymerase chain reaction were positive by cell culture. All cell culture samples were positive by polymerase chain reaction testing. Culture and polymerase chain reaction analysis two weeks after treatment with oral erythromycin were negative. The polymerase chain reaction assay appears to be equally specific and more sensitive than McCoy cell culture for the detection of C. trachomatis from ocular specimens.
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