When one hears “Chlamydia,” they will probably think of the sexually transmitted infection. Even when doing a simple web search on “Chlamydia,” the given results with the most hits will point to the sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, there is so much more than the STI. Chlamydia trachomatis also causes blindness. C. trachomatis is the cause of both the STI and blindness in people (Chlamydia trachomatis L2c (n.d.).
The organism Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular parasite. Its Gram status is Gram-negative (Bach, C. (2011, April 29). Its morphology is Bacilli. The taxonomy of C. trachomatis starts with its Kingdom being Bacteria. Its phylum is Chlamydiae. Its class is also Chlamydiae. Its order is Chlamydiales. It belongs to the Chlamydiaceae Family. Its genus is Chlamydia and species is trachomatis. C. trachomatis has no motility and also no flagella. It requires no oxygen. It has a symbiotic relationship with its main host of human beings (Chlamydia trachomatis L2c. (n.d.)).
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In 1907, two men by the name of Ludwig Halberstaedeter and Stanislaus von Prowazek observed the organism on the eye surface of an infected orangutan. In China 1957, Feifan Tang first cultured C. trachomatis in the yolk sac of eggs. “Chlamys” is Greek for “cloak draped around the shoulder.” This is used to describe the occurrence of inclusions that are draped around the nucleus of the infected cell. With C. trachomatis being an obligate intracellular parasite, it was thought to be a virus at first. It is unable to replicate outside of the host cell (Fagerberg, K., Smith, L., & Grimes, J. (2013)).
Chlamydia is transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral sexual intercourse. It can be passed down to an infant through her biological mother infected with chlamydia. Those infected who are sexually active stand a higher chance of spreading the infection with larger numbers of sexual partners. Any sexually active person ranging from teens to elderly adults are at risk for a chlamydia infection. In young women and teenage girls are more susceptible to infection when sexually active because the cervix has yet to fully mature (Fagerberg, K., Smith, L., & Grimes, J. (2013)).
When symptoms present themselves, it can take one to three weeks once infected. Symptoms for women include a yellow-green colored, frothy discharge from the vagina, burning sensation with urination, lower abdomen pain, lower back pain, fever, abnormal uterine bleeding between periods, or really painful menstrual cycles. When pregnant, untreated infections may lead to a premature birth. As the newborn passes the birth canal through vaginal delivery, the infant is exposed to the chlamydia infection with possible results of eye infections, pneumonia and blindness (Fagerberg, K., Smith, L., & Grimes, J. (2013)).
Symptoms for men are very similar in that they too may experience a discharge but from their penis. They may also have a burning sensation when urinating, itching or burning sensation around the opening of the penis, and infections of the epididymis and rectum (Fagerberg, K., Smith, L., & Grimes, J. (2013)).
Oddly enough, symptoms can be mild or even absent. But if diagnosed early enough, chlamydia infections are easily treated and even cured. If chlamydia is left untreated, it can spread to the cervix and fallopian tubes. This can lead to PID (infections in the fallopian tubes) and infertility. Chances of becoming infected with HIV increases when exposed to chlamydia (Fagerberg, K., Smith, L., & Grimes, J. (2013)).
To diagnose chlamydia, a simple screening process is done. Collecting a sample of urine or a swab of the discharge is done for diagnosis. The best test used is a molecular test known as nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). This test amplifies the DNA present in C. trachomatis. The advantage of molecular testing is having more accurate positive results over conventional cultures. Other than the NAAT, there are two tests that also screen for chlamydia. They are known as direct fluorescent antibody stain and a DNA probe but are not as sensitive as the NAAT. The direct fluorescent antibody test tests for chlamydial antigens. The DNA probe tests for chlamydial DNA as the name suggests (Fagerberg, K., Smith, L., & Grimes, J. (2013)).
Recommendations from the CDC include women age 25 and over with risk factors and new or multiple partners be screened regularly. The CDC also recommends that men who have sex with other men are at risk and should be screened often (Fagerberg, K., Smith, L., & Grimes, J. (2013)).
Chlamydia treatment is simple when caught early. Normally, prescription oral antibiotics are provided to all partners to prevent spread of the infection and even being infected again. All those affected will need to abstain from sexual activity until the full antibiotic dose is completed. Reasons for reinfection include not communicating with a partner due to embarrassment or a refusal to take the medications due not having symptoms. Treatment is usually completed within one to two weeks of diagnosis of infection. To ensure proper treatment and minimize the chance of antibiotic resistance, it is imperative that the prescription be taken properly and completed in the amount of time as directed. Once completed, retesting needs to be performed to ensure the infection has been treated. This would be done roughly three to four months. This is needed if a partner or partners have yet to be treated for chlamydia (Fagerberg, K., Smith, L., & Grimes, J. (2013)).
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Prevention of infection is always better than curing it. The best mode of prevention is to practice abstinence of all forms of sexual activity which includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Another way to prevent the spread of infection is to limit the number of sexual partners. Making sure that all parties included are tested regularly and treated for STIs will help reduce the risk of infection. Practicing safe sex works well in the prevention of chlamydia transmission. The proper use of latex condoms should be a regular act as one engages in sexual activity whether be it vaginal, anal, or oral sex (Fagerberg, K., Smith, L., & Grimes, J. (2013)).
Chlamydia trachomatis causes blindness in people worldwide. This infection is known as Trachoma. It is the leader in the cause of blindness around the world. Trachoma infections are transmitted via direct or indirect contact. Contact with people who have particular discharges from the eyes and nose, especially young children, are the reservoir of infection. These discharges can be spread via a specific species of flies (Trachoma. (n.d.).
Areas where trachoma is endemic, the common carrier of inflammatory trachoma is among preschool-aged children. As one gets older, the infection has a lesser frequency and duration. The infection is normally acquired when in close proximity with those who are actively infected. The main setting for transmission is within the family. A single episode of infection can be cleared by an individual’s immune system alone, but the frequency of reinfection is heightened in endemic communities (Trachoma. (n.d.).
Repeated infections over the course of time can cause the eyelid to become scarred that it will turn inward, and the eyelashes will rub against the globe of the eye. Along with the rubbing of the eyeball, other alterations of the eye will lead to scarring of the cornea. If left untreated, it can lead to irreversible opacities forming and eventual blindness. This can occur at almost any stage in life, but several factors will determine its intensity. The typical age for visual impairment is between the ages of 30 and 40 years old, but can occur in childhood.
The blindness can be a result in families of poor economic standing. Women are more susceptible to becoming blind four times more than men due to close contact with infected children (Trachoma. (n.d.).
The environment plays a role in the spread of trachoma. Inadequacies in access to clean water and sanitation practices, crowded homes, and poor hygiene are factors in being infected with trachoma. The prevention of being infected with trachoma include surgery for those in advance stages of trachoma, prescribing antibiotic treatment for C. trachomatis, having better hygiene practices, and by cleaning and improving personal environments (Trachoma. (n.d.).
To conclude, Chlamydia trachomatis is one serious bacterium. It can be the cause of serious infections with associated pain, infertility, premature birth, vision impairment, and blindness. Modes of transmission for C. trachomatis seem pretty simple as it can be spread via sexual activity, other forms of direct contact, and fomites. Curing an infection from C. trachomatis includes making sure that all prescribed antibiotic treatments are completed properly within the proper duration of time. Prevention of infection is basically keeping clean with your environment and making sure to that those one comes in contact with are also clean and treated.
- Bach, C. (2011, April 29). Chlamydia trachomatis. Retrieved from https://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php?title=Chlamydia_trachomatis&oldid=63843# Current_Research
- Becker, Y. (1996, January 01). Chlamydia. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8091/
- Chlamydia trachomatis L2c. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://bacmap.wishartlab.com/organisms/1419
- Fagerberg, K., Smith, L., & Grimes, J. (2013). Sexually Transmitted Disease: An Encyclopedia of Diseases, Prevention, Treatment, and Issues [2 Volumes] : An Encyclopedia of Diseases, Prevention, Treatment, and Issues. Santa Barbara: Greenwood. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.db08.linccweb.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=781663&site=ehost-live
- Trachoma. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/trachoma
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