Chlamydia Undermines Body’s Defense against Genetic Mutation

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February 24th, 2015

Though curable with simple antibiotics, those who have the sexually transmitted infection (STI) Chlamydia trachomatis often show no symptoms. This disease causes havoc infecting 90 million worldwide, 70% of which are women. This STI can cause chronic infections and even impact fertility. For decades researchers have been trying to develop a vaccine, but have come up short. Today, they say they are closer than ever. In fact, a few short years ago an Australian team developed a vaccine for koala bears. That’s good news because Chlamydia is proving increasingly antibiotic resistant. Hopefully, a cure will arrive soon as one recent study found that the disease is even worse than first thought.  Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin (MPIIB) have now determined that chlamydia actually allows for gene mutations. The body has normal processes for getting rid of damaged cells. But chlamydia obstructs these processes from taking place for its own survival and replication. Such mutations may lead to cancer.

These bacteria live inside cells and depend upon the host cell for sustenance. The bacteria can also alter the functions of the host cell to favor itself and its growth. But scientists until now have not known the results of such manipulation. Studies have shown an increase in cervical and ovarian cancer, which researchers now believe is linked to the bacteria’s ability to allow mutated genes to carry on without reabsorption. In fact, chlamydia can influence both the genome and epi-genome of cells which can lead to lots of different kinds of cancer. The process in which the body rectifies mutated genes is called DNA Damage Response. This response was impaired in infected cells. Repairs to DNA were prone to errors, leading to the survival of more genetic mutations. Though the DNA was damaged, infected cells continue to multiply. Researchers believe this is the first step of carcinogenesis or how such cancers develop. Knowing this can help them create strategies to halt such cancers right in their tracks.

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