Genome Sequencing Reveals Link Between Chlamydia-Caused Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Chlamydia-Caused Infectious Blindness; Transfer of Gene Variants Can Give STI Chlamydia Ability to Infect Eye

For the first time, genome sequencing has been carried out on Chlamydia trachomatis (C. trachomatis), a bacterium responsible for the disease trachoma - the world's leading infectious cause of blindness, according to a study published online on February 25, 2016 in Nature Communications. The open-access article is titled “Chlamydia trachomatis from Australian Aboriginal People with Trachoma Are Polyphyletic Composed of Multiple Distinctive Lineages.” Researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (UK) and Menzies School of Health Research (Australia) have discovered that genes can move from chlamydia strains in the eye to sexually transmitted strains of chlamydia, allowing them to then infect the eye and cause trachoma, a neglected tropical disease. C. trachomatis is the major cause of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) worldwide and is also responsible for trachoma. Trachoma affects about 2.2 million people worldwide, and is still present in some indigenous communities in the Northern Territory of Australia. The clinical impact of the results is that trachoma re-emergence may be more likely than previously thought, particularly if Chlamydia STI remains common. Dr. Patiyan Andersson, Senior Research Officer at the Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) and lead author of the paper, said: "This work came about from the analysis of frozen isolates that had been collected in the 1980s and 1990s. We were able to resuscitate chlamydia bacteria that had been frozen for 30 years, and study their genomes to find out how they had evolved."
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