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Sexually transmitted disease that causes blindness evades detection.

Chlamydia trachomatis--the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world and the leading cause of infectious blindness--is causing concern among scientists, since a recent discovery revealed that undetectable strains of chlamydia are evolving faster than previously believed. Chlamydia is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, the same bacterium that causes trachoma, a type of infectious blindness that occurs primarily in rural settings in developing countries, but can appear in crowded cities in impoverished neighborhoods where poor hygiene is present. Often spread through casual contact, the most common route of infection of the bacterium is through sexual intercourse. In 2010, over a million chlamydial infections were reported in the United States to the Centers for Disease Control. Because most people with chlamydia are not aware of their infection, it is estimated that well over two million infections actually occur annually in the United States. This high rate of infections is particularly alarming given the recent discoveries of new strains of the chlamydia bacterium by researchers from a collaboration that included the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, based near Cambridge, England.

Since diagnosis of chlamydia is currently limited to a positive or negative test result, there is no way to differentiate between multiple stains of chlamydia a person might be infected with. As a result, if a second or third strain of bacteria is present, a physician may be unable to determine whether antibiotic treatment has failed or if a patient has picked up a new infection after successful treatment of the first infection. Given the revelation of the evolution of chlamydia, it is likely that eventual antibiotic resistance will evolve in some new future strains of the disease, putting the health and eyesight of millions at risk. Researchers are currently expanding their understanding of the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium by working on deciphering its entire genomic sequence. By being able to identify and monitor new strains, cases of infectious blindness and sexually transmitted disease infection from chlamydia in the future can be effectively prevented or treated. For more information, contact: Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge, CB10 1SA, United Kingdom; web site: <>.

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Title Annotation:Public health
Publication:Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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