Conditions where contact tracing should be considered: The results of STI testing are generally not available at the initial visit, and a sexually transmitted pathogen is often not found. Contact tracing is always recommended when an STI pathogen is detected and even when it is not, pathogens are sometimes identified in partners. Please refer to the notes relating to that specific pathogen.

Causative organisms


Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae,

Note: Sexually transmissible causes are more likely in younger people (<35 years), and while urinary tract pathogens such as coliforms are increasingly likely in older people  (>35 years), STI should be considered in all age groups.

A pathogen is often not identifiable.

Incubation period

Poorly defined, probably days to weeks depending on the organism


How far back to trace

See relevant sections if chlamydia or gonorrhoea are isolated


Usual testing method

Clinical diagnosis may be reinforced by detection of urethritis on gram stain chlamydia and gonorrhoea nucleic acid amplification testing and urine microscopy and culture


Common symptoms

Scrotal pain, swelling and erythema occasionally associated with dysuria and urethral discharge


Likelihood of transmission per act of condomless intercourse Depends on specific pathogen
Likelihood of long-term sexual partner being infected Depends on specific pathogen
Protective effect of condoms

High for sexually transmitted pathogens


Transmission by oral sex

Relevant for/N. gonorrhoeae


Duration of potential infectivity

Depends on specific pathogen


Important sequelae

Untreated infection can lead to orchitis (testicular infection); some evidence of reduced fertility.


Direct benefit of detection and treatment of contacts Cure where a pathogen is found

Usual management of


Counselling, clinical examination, test for C.trachomatis and N.gonorrhoeae

Consider presumptively treating sexual contacts if there has been sexual contact within the past 2 weeks in line with local guidance or when the person’s individual circumstances mean later treatment may not occur.

Contact tracing priority

High - Where C. trachomatis or N. gonorrhoeae isolated

Medium - Younger people and their current sexual partners where a sexually transmitted pathogen is not isolated

Low - Older people and their previous sexual partners, where a sexually transmitted pathogen is not isolated

None - Where a urinary tract pathogen is isolated

Notification Not notifiable

Page last updated September 2022