Cure for Chlamydia

Molecule blocks bacteria’s spread
October 1, 2011
 
Infection detection

Infection detection: Transmission electron micrograph image of chlamydia bacteria (red) inside a human cell.
Photoresearchers

Researchers at Duke Medical Center have discovered a way to block the damaging actions of chlamydia, the bacterium responsible for the largest number of sexually transmitted infections in the U.S.

The team, which included Duke microbiologists and chemists, designed a molecule that takes away the bacteria’s self-defense mechanisms. The therapies that could come from this discovery mark a new type of antimicrobial approach. Instead of directly killing the bacteria, they will disarm a central weapon of chlamydia and let the body take care of the rest.

The new molecule targets CPAF, a virulence factor produced by chlamydia that keeps cells invaded by pathogens from dying. In that way, CPAF gives chlamydia bacteria an extended chance to multiply and stay hidden from the body’s natural defenses.

When CPAF is effectively inhibited, says Raphael Valdivia, an associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology and head of the research team, the infected cells effectively “commit suicide.”

Chlamydia infections are initially symptomless but can become chronic in women and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. While these infections can be treated with antibiotics, chlamydia can be contracted multiple times, with negative effects building over time. There are nearly three million new cases in the U.S. each year.