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Newly identified strains of Chlamydia trachomatis could produce new diseases

November 14, 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 h
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Contact: Jennifer Santos
jsantos@mail.cho.org
510-428-3479
Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland
15-Nov-2006


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