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28 November 2006
New Chlamydia Strains Could Create New Diseases

Chlamydia trachomatis has rendered blind 8 million of the 600 million people afflicted with the bacterium, making it the second leading cause of blindness and the leading sexually transmitted disease. If this wasn't bad enough, researchers from the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) claim that the bacterium is evolving at a faster rate than scientists could ever have imagined.

It has been revealed that genes from various strains of the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium have been combining to form new strains and potentially new diseases, according to a new study published in the November issue of Genome Research. Researchers say that this process, called recombination, needs to be better understood so that scientists can identify and track new transmissions of the bacterium.

"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," says Dr. Deborah Dean, senior scientist at CHORI. "Consequently, the constant flux of the bacterium could serve as a gateway for new emerging diseases."

Chlamydia trachomatis already has a variety of strains, with each being responsible for different types of disease. Contrary to conventional wisdom, not all of these strains are sexually transmitted. "Large-scale comparative genomics will be necessary to understand the precise mechanisms underlying Chlamydia trachomatis recombination and how other species of chlamydiae may evolve and transfer from animals to humans," concluded Dr. Dean.

Source: Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland

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