For many sufferers, the standard treatment regime for chlamydia fails to eradicate the disease, and researchers think the culprit may be the gastrointestinal tract.
Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common cause of sexually transmitted disease in the world. In the U.S., 7 percent of sexually active females aged between 14 and 19 become infected annually.
Researcher Roger Rank, of the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute, said chlamydia not only infects the reproductive tract, but also abides persistently in the gastrointestinal tract. “There it remains even after eradication from the genitals by the antibiotic azithromycin,” he said. “And that reservoir is likely a source of the all-too-common reinfections that follow treatment.”
The source of these reinfections has long been something of a conundrum. Often, they are blamed on continued intercourse with an infected partner. The new study, appearing in the journal Infection and Immunity, suggests that in many of these reinfections, the partner may not be to blame.
Rank’s co-researcher Laxmi Yeruva said that their work had shown that in mice, azithormycin eradicated the genital infection, but not the gastrointestinal infection.
Intriguingly, Yeruva and Rank also showed that chlamydial infection of the gastrointestinal tract does not elicit an inflammatory response, and never resolves, unlike in the genital tract.
While chlamydial persistence in the gastrointestinal tract has largely escaped notice, it was documented in the veterinary literature in numerous animals as early as the 1950s, says Rank. His reading of that early literature was a major factor motivating his and Yeruva’s studies, and this review, he said.
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