Newly identified strains of Chlamydia trachomatis could produce new diseases

Nov 15, 2006

A new study led by a scientist at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) is the first to conclude that Chlamydia trachomatis is evolving at a rate faster than scientists first thought or imagined.

Chlamydia trachomatis is a bacterium that is the leading cause of sexually transmitted diseases and the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. Scientists believe the bacterium is evolving through a process called recombination where genes from one or more strains combine to create new strains and – theoretically – new diseases.

The study is featured in the November issue of Genome Research and was led by Dr. Deborah Dean MD, MPH, senior scientist at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI). Her research suggests that since Chlamydia trachomatis evolves through recombination where one or more strains combine, the traditional method of studying a single gene to track the transmission of the bacterium is wrong. "What we found is an organism that not only evolves rapidly, but in ways that we thought were rare. We also discovered that this organism can customize its attack," said Dr. Dean. "Consequently, the constant flux of the bacterium could serve as a gateway for new emerging diseases, but more research needs to be conducted to understand if and how this is happening."

600 million people are infected across the globe with Chlamydia trachomatis and 8 million are already blind or severely visually impaired. In some parts of third-world countries, more than 90% of the population is infected. Chlamydia trachomatis has a variety of strains; different strains are responsible for different diseases. Some strains cause sexually transmitted diseases while others cause eye infections. Blinding trachoma is caused by repeated eye infections that cause scarring, which result in the eyelashes turning in-wards. Bacterial infection develops as the eyelashes scratch the surface of the eye, which eventually heals by scarring, resulting in blindness.

Previously, the organism was identified using a single gene, ompA, and the protein encoded by that gene, MOMP. In this study, the clinical strains, which are samples of Chlamydia trachomatis currently responsible for human disease today, were compared to standard reference strains that have been laboratory adapted over the last few decades. By studying multiple strains, the researchers discovered that the strains that were identified as the same strain were actually different.

The next step will be to study clinical strains in comparison with laboratory reference strains to decipher exactly how different strains cause disease and whether new diseases are emerging as a result of the emergence of new strains. "Large-scale comparative genomics will be necessary to understand the precise mechanisms underlying Chlamydia trachomatis recombination and how other species of chamydiae may evolve and transfer from animals to humans."

Source: Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland

Explore further: Serotonin neuron subtypes: New insights could inform SIDS understanding, depression treatment

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Microbial 'signature' for sexual crimes

3 hours ago

Bacterial communities living on an individual's pubic hairs could be used as a microbial 'signature' to trace their involvement in sexual assault cases, according to a study published in the open access journal Investigative Ge ...

Brazil: Google fined in Petrobras probe

4 hours ago

A Brazilian court says it has fined Google around $200,000 for refusing to intercept emails needed in a corruption investigation at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Atari's 'E.T.' game joins Smithsonian collection

4 hours ago

One of the "E.T." Atari game cartridges unearthed this year from a heap of garbage buried deep in the New Mexico desert has been added to the video game history collection at the Smithsonian.

Sony threatens to sue for publishing stolen emails

5 hours ago

A lawyer representing Sony Pictures Entertainment is warning news organizations not to publish details of company files leaked by hackers in one of the largest digital breaches ever against an American company.

Microsoft builds support over Ireland email case

5 hours ago

Microsoft said Monday it had secured broad support from a coalition of influential technology and media firms as it seeks to challenge a US ruling ordering it to hand over emails stored on a server in Ireland.

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.