Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that typically clears with antibiotics. However, a person can reacquire the infection, including during treatment.

This often happens if someone has sex with a partner with an active chlamydia infection during treatment.

Because of this, a person with chlamydia needs to advise all their sexual partners to receive testing for the infection. These individuals can then seek treatment, if applicable.

A person should also use condoms when having sex and avoid sexual activity during treatment.

This article reviews chlamydia reinfection, signs and symptoms, treatment, testing, and more.

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Any sexually active person can contract chlamydia, though it is more common in younger sexually active adults and teens.

While the infection is easy to treat, it can reoccur if the person has multiple sexual partners or if their partner does not also receive treatment.

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is the most commonly reported bacterial infectious disease in the United States. Health experts believe this is because chlamydia can be asymptomatic in its earliest stages.

It typically affects sexually active people who are 24 years of age or younger.

Sexually active people can contract the infection through various sexual acts, including:

  • anal sex
  • vaginal sex
  • oral sex

The infection can affect various areas, including the:

  • vagina
  • penis
  • anus
  • eyes

Often, chlamydia does not cause obvious symptoms. When they do occur, they can include:

Learn more

Learn more about chlamydia.

A person can contract chlamydia again during or after treatment.

The most common reason for reinfection is having sex without a barrier method with a partner who has not received treatment for chlamydia.

Other common reasons for reinfection can include:

  • sex without using a barrier method with a new partner who has an active chlamydia infection
  • not finishing an antibiotic treatment plan
  • using an unclean sex toy that someone else with the infection has used

However, a person cannot contract the infection again from using a toilet seat or toothbrush, kissing, or sharing drinks. Chlamydia only passes through sexual contact.

How common is reinfection?

Estimates for reinfections vary, with many sources reporting it as a common occurrence.

According to the CDC, in 2021, many individuals reacquired a chlamydia infection after receiving treatment in the previous months. This was usually because their partners had not received treatment.

In a 2016 report, experts reported that roughly 20% of females with chlamydia experienced reinfection.

Having chlamydia once does not guarantee a person will not reacquire the infection, though some studies have shown that partial immunity is possible.

According to a 2019 study, the reduction in susceptibility to reinfection varied by country. In the United Kingdom, the reduction in susceptibility to reinfection is around 93%, while in the United States, it is 67%.

In other words, a person may have some immunity from reinfection, but it is not enough to guarantee it will not occur.

A person can take steps to help avoid reinfection. They include:

  • reducing the number of sexual partners
  • taking all medications as a doctor has prescribed
  • referring a partner for chlamydia testing and any necessary treatment
  • washing any sex toys after use
  • using condoms when engaging in sexual contact

A person should also avoid sexual contact for the remainder of their treatment program.

For example, if the pills last 7 days, they should not engage in sex for 7 days.

This will help prevent the spread to their partner and help limit the likelihood of reinfection.

The CDC recommends a person get retested about 3 months following initial treatment whether or not a partner has also received treatment. However, individuals can retest before 3 months if symptoms occur beforehand.

If they cannot get retested at 3 months, they should undergo retesting at their annual exam.

Test of cure

A test of cure is not the same as retesting. Healthcare professionals use it to check if the initial infection has cleared. They recommend people undergo a test of cure 4 weeks after treatment.

However, the CDC does not recommend a test of cure for everyone.

People who should consider this test include:

  • those who are pregnant
  • those who may not have adhered to the treatment
  • those whose symptoms persist
  • those who suspect reinfection

The signs of reinfection are similar to the first infection.

While a person may not experience any symptoms, those who do may experience:

  • an unusual discharge from the penis, vagina, or anus
  • a burning sensation during urination
  • swollen testicles

Contracting chlamydia multiple times can increase a female’s risk of serious reproductive health problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

PID can cause several health issues, including:

For biological males, there is no risk of long-term health complications.

As with the first infection, a person may not realize they have another chlamydia infection.

However, they may show common signs of infection, such as a burning sensation when they urinate.

The CDC recommends a person seek a retesting about 3 months following initial treatment.

Pregnant people with a previous infection should consider getting tested for cure 4 weeks following the initial treatment.

The following sections provide answers to frequently asked questions about chlamydia reinfections.

What can you not do while undergoing treatment for chlamydia?

A person should abstain from sexual intercourse for the entire duration of their treatment, which often lasts 7 days.

However, they may continue all other everyday activities during treatment.

Once they have finished their antibiotics, they can resume sexual activities.

However, they should:

  • let their partner or partners know they have had a chlamydia infection
  • ensure that all sexual partners either have a negative chlamydia test or have received treatment
  • wear condoms every time during sex

These steps will reduce the risk of reinfection.

Can someone reacquire a chlamydia infection through a toothbrush?

No, chlamydia does not spread from contact with saliva. For example, a person can kiss someone with chlamydia and not contract the infection.

However, having oral sex with someone with chlamydia can spread the infection.

Furthermore, chlamydia trachomatis, the bacterium that causes chlamydia, does not survive for long outside the human body.

Though a person certainly could switch toothbrushes following treatment, they do not need to in order to prevent the spread of the infection.

Can you reacquire chlamydia through your sex toy?

Chlamydia trachomatis cannot survive for long outside the body, so a person is highly unlikely to reacquire chlamydia via their sex toy.

However, a person should still wash their sex toys thoroughly after every use.

Sharing sex toys with someone with chlamydia can cause the infection to spread. For this reason, individuals should avoid sharing sex toys or clean them and cover them with a new condom before every use.

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can spread through sexual contact. In most cases, reinfection occurs when a person’s sexual partner does not receive treatment.

A person can take steps to prevent chlamydia reinfection, such as wearing condoms and ensuring their partner or partners also receive treatment.

With treatment, the infection can clear, but a person can reacquire it in the future.

According to the CDC, having one monogamous sexual partner who has tested negative for the infection reduces a person’s risk of getting chlamydia.