A SOUTHAMPTON neighbourhood has been identified as having more diverse strains of a sexually transmitted infection than anywhere else in the city.

A wider variety of chlamydia strains have been discovered in Portswood after a study compared different areas of the city.

Scientists reviewed more than 3,000 samples, and found a higher number of different genotypes (strains) in the samples from the SO17 postcode.

The study's investigators say it could help change the way local populations are targeted to reduce the rate of the infection.

They also warned that targeted surveillance should be put in place to identify specific strains when they first come into a community.

Chlamydia is the most common STI in England.

Dr Peter Marsh, research fellow at the University of Southampton, led the study.

Dr Marsh said: "There are clearly strains of chlamydia which represent well-established and widespread sexual networks, but there are also sporadic strains implying different sexual networks which might be small and short-lived.

"Whereas interventions to reduce STIs in established and widespread networks should be broad, national strategies, there should also be targeted surveillance and interventions to identify such short-lived and sporadic networks."

Scientists at the university reviewed 3,118 samples at the sexual health clinic and analysed genotypes in the DNA of the 380 samples that tested positive for the infection.

The study was originally performed by former PhD student Clare Labiran and was carried out in collaboration with Public Health England and Solent NHS Trust.

Clare said: "I know this vital study will help us to understand the spread of chlamydia in the community."

Samples found from other postcodes of the city, from SO14 to SO19, were all similar and strains that are already known.

Ian Clarke, professor of virology at the university, said: "These are really interesting results which could help change the way we target local populations to reduce the rates of sexually transmitted infections.

"The fact that the SO17 postcode of Southampton has a large proportion of people with diverse nationalities, cultures and behaviours may account for the differences."A S