A groundbreaking study of chlamydia infection found almost 6% of 393 Limerick men aged between 17 and 35 had it - almost double the number researchers had expected.
The expert team which carried out the study said they had estimated it would have been about 3.5%.
The Limerick incidence of the infection is higher than British studies and on a par with a Danish study.
The study was carried out by two specialists at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Dr Catherine O’Connor, a specialist in genitourinary medicine, and James Powell, a medial scientist in microbiology.
The study is published in Sexually Transmitted Infections, a publication by the British Medical Journal.
The study team examined 186 men attending the University of Limerick sports centre and 207 men attending orthopaedic outpatients clinics at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.
“Chlamydia is often seen as a women’s health issue as its complications in women are well known. As a result, men are relatively ignorant about its transmission, prevention and control. Another factor, perhaps is that 60-80% of cases of chlamydia have no symptoms,” Dr O’Connor said.
She added that screening men for chlamydial infection has been considered problematic mainly because men are less likely than women to attend healthcare settings.
“This is reflected in only 25% of men being diagnosed with chlamydia outside of Sexually Transmitted Disease clinics, compared with 59% of women in the region,” said Mr Powell.
Dr O’Connor said that screening for the disease would be cost effective.
“The disease is prevalent in the community; the consequences of infection are severe and no harm can be done to the patient by screening. The test is relatively cheap, fast and accurate and with treatment, chlamydia can be cured with significant benefits for patients, their partners and the general community,” said Dr O’Connor.