Chlamydia Trachomatis Life Cycle – Overview

Chlamydia trachomatis infections are the most common sexually transmitted diseases in many parts of the world, especially in developing countries. Chlamydia trachoma infections in most cases go unrecognised and if recognised, are inadequately treated, leading to re-occurrence of infections and drug resistance.

The chlamydia trachoma bacteria can infect an individual through several means including through contact with infected clothing material (trachoma), sex with an infected partner, through the consumption of infected birds and mother-child transmission.

Once the bacterium enters the body, it targets body cells, which the bacteria penetrates and attaches itself. The bacteria tightens within the cell, forming an endocytic vesticle. It is from this endocytic vesticle that the bacteria differentiates into reticulate bodies. A mature reticulate chlamydia trachomatis bacterial body then begins to differentiate three hours after infection.

Chlamydia Trachomatis Life Cycle - Overview

In a laboratory setting, chlamdial endosomes containing single endosomes become visible. These again start to differentiate through binary fission. The division of chlamdial endosomes become prominent 15 hours after infection, showing as multiple bodies of chlamdial reticulate bodies with chlamdial lipopolysaccharide. It is the lipopolysaccharide that forms the basis of laboratory tests.

Between 18-22 hours of chlamydia trachomatis infection, the reticulate bodies begin to differentiate further, forming many elementary bodies. This division produces very many elementary bodies as one reticulate body produces several elementary bodies that measure about 0.5 microns in size. The elementary bodies have condensed nucleic acid. They eventually proceed to attach themselves to the infected cell(s) membranes.

At 40 hours of infection, an infected cell(s) will have very many elementary bodies that are small and dark-stained. The decaying remains of reticulate bodies that produced the elementary bodies can also be noticed at this stage. The infected cell’s nucleus is then pushed to the sides.

At 48 hours after infection, the host cell has mature chlamydia trachomatis cells that are tiny dots of fluorescing chlamydial bodies. The elementary bodies then enlarge by intercepting exocytic membrane vesicles of the host cell, thereby literally destroying it.

The free and mature chlamydia trachomatis bacterial cells are then transported to other parts of the body through the blood stream. The chlamydia trachomatis bacterial cells follow the same division pattern upon infecting other organ cells.

The division and sub-division process continues and if proper medical treatment is not sought, an individual will have serious health complications that may become hard to treat. Chlamydia trachomatis bacterial infection can be arrested at any stage, provided that a correct diagnosis has been obtained and the appropriate antibiotic drugs administered.

A lot of research is being undertaken by a number of health organizations in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) to find ways of eliminating chlamydia trachoma infections, especially trachoma.

The latest strategy that the WHO is undertaking in Africa where trachoma is rampant is referred to as SAFE, which focuses on Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environment.

This strategy aims to encourage treatment for severe trachoma infections through surgery to avoid blindness, the use of antibiotics in the treatment of infections, facial cleanliness to reduce eye infection chances and clean environment to stop the spread of infections.

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