Ligase chain reaction (LCR)-based tests for the diagnosis of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae infections in men and women attending a sexually transmitted disease clinic were evaluated. LCR testing of urethral swab and urine specimens from men and cervical swab and urine specimens from women was compared with culture of male urethral swabs and female cervical and urethral swabs, respectively. An expanded "gold standard" was defined as a positive culture or at least one specimen confirmed to be positive by LCR testing. The prevalence of C. trachomatis infection as detected by cell culture was 7.0% among 614 men and 5.0% among 602 women. By LCR, these values increased to 11.4 and 9.9% with urethral swabs and urine, respectively, for men and 9.6 and 9.1% with cervical swabs and urine, respectively, for women. Relative to the expanded gold standard, the sensitivity of cell culture with male urethral swabs or female cervical swabs was 57.3 and 45.5%, respectively, compared with corresponding values of 93.3 and 87.9% for LCR. The sensitivity of LCR with urine specimens was 77.3 and 78.8% for men and women, respectively. The prevalence of N. gonorrhoeae infection as detected by culture was 5.9% among 220 men and 2.9% among 383 women. The corresponding values were 8.2 and 5.5%, respectively, by LCR testing of swabs. Prevalence values by LCR testing of urine were 7.3% for men and 2.9% for women. The sensitivity of culture was 72.2% for men and 50.0% for women. The sensitivities of LCR were 100% with male urethral swabs, 95.4% with female cervical swabs, 88.9% with male urine, and 50.0% with female urine. These results indicate that the LCR-based assays represent a major improvement in C. trachomatis and N. gonorrhoeae diagnostics. The sensitivity of testing of urethral or cervical swabs by LCR was markedly greater than that by culture. The sensitivity of testing female or male urine specimens was equal to or greater than that of culturing cervical or urethral specimens. LCR testing of urine specimens may prove useful for screening for C. trachomatis.