- Which bacterial genes are turned on during infection?
- What host inflammatory pathways does chlamydia trigger?
- Why does tissue damage continue after a chlamydia infection has been effectively treated with antibiotics?
- How might we find new diagnostic strategies for asymptomatic infection and develop novel therapeutic targets?
The estimated number of new chlamydial infections per year is approximately 50 million, more than twice the population of Australia with sexually transmitted C. trachomatis being the most frequently reported bacterial infection in the world. Chlamydial infections can cause acute and chronic diseases such as cervicitis, urethritis, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility and trachoma – a form of blindness often found in developing countries and prevalent amongst Aboriginal children. A wide range of animals that include sheep, cattle, pigs, and koalas is also susceptible to infection.
Despite the immense global impact, little is known about how Chlamydia causes tissue scarring and disease, as gene manipulation techniques have only recently been developed. It is also one of a few intracellular bacterial pathogens – meaning it can only be grown within mammalian cells in the laboratory rather than the traditional broth or plate culture methods used for most other bacteria.
Antibiotics are effective but tissue damage and scarring can persist long after the primary infection has cleared because of an abnormal and unchecked immune response. It is this ongoing ‘wound repair’ process that leads to blindness and infertility. In order to determine which of the pathogen’s genes are responsible for this reaction, research has focussed on mass sequencing Chlamydia sp. genomes as well as simultaneously measuring gene expression in infected host cells. Another line of investigation is to isolate and compare strains isolated from different animals and tissues.
We hope that a better understanding of the host cells’ response, together with knowledge of pathogen genetics and the infection timeframe, will lead to the development of anti-fibrotic therapies to treat Chlamydial scarring.
Research focus: Chlamydia infection and pathology and host-pathogen interactions
Tags: Bacterial pathogen, Blindness, Chlamydia, C. trachomatis, Gene expression, Genome sequencing, Genetic manipulation, Infection response, Infertility, Molecular genetics, RNA sequencing, Scarring, Veterinary pathogen, Whole genome sequencing, Inflammation