Scientists Sequence Chlamydia Trachomatis Genome

t in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the upper reproductive tract. The resulting tubal scarring leads to infertility, tubal pregnancy and chronic pelvic pain. Chlamydial infection also increases the risk for HIV infection.

Researchers have found the study of C. trachomatis challenging because unlike most bacteria, this organism only grows inside the host cell, just like a virus. Also, many aspects of C. trachomatis - its physiology, structure, developmental biology and genetics - are poorly understood. Its genome, however, has already revealed some extraordinary secrets. Over time, it appears that this bacterium has borrowed genetic information from its human hosts, and it uses this information to tap the resources of the cells and get essential nutrients that it cannot make.

"The Chlamydia trachomatis genome represents a molecular gold mine for the research community," says Dr. Stephens. "Even the establishment of a genetic system, which we can manipulate to study the organism, is within reach. This would enable scientists to use molecular tools to investigate, for example, how the organism gets inside the cells, how it causes scarring and how Chlamydia might escape the effects of antibiotic therapy."

The last few years have yielded critical advances in the battle against this devastating STD. A highly sensitive and specific urine test to diagnose the illness has been developed. The pharmaceutical industry has made a safe and effective single-dose oral therapy. NIAID-funded researchers have used these new tools to document the enormous problem in adolescent populations and to show that early screening and treatment for chlamydial infection can prevent PID.

"Despite significant progress, the more we look, the more chlamydial infections we find. Clearly we need better prevention tools if we are going to stop the spread of this silent plague," says Penelope J. Hitchcock, D.V.M., chief of NIAID's STD branch. "Of particul

Contact: Laurie K. Doepel
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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