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Chlamydia organism
Section of cervix with chlamydial organisms (green) within epithelial
cells next to nuclei (blue)

UTSA wins $1.8M to continue chlamydia research

By Christi Fish
Public Affairs Specialist

(Feb. 9, 2009)--The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded chlamydia researchers at UTSA's South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID) a $1.8 million grant (over the next five years) to study the pathogenesis of Chlamydia trachomatis, the bacterium that causes human genital chlamydia.

"The chlamydia infection is the world's leading bacterial sexually transmitted disease," said Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA professor of microbiology and immunology and the study's principal investigator. "Because there is no licensed vaccine available to treat chlamydia and its symptoms often go unnoticed, many patients who contract chlamydia will develop pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility."

It is estimated that at least 2.2 million people in the United States are infected with chlamydia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Arulanandam's team of researchers, led by Ashlesh Murthy, research assistant professor, has been studying various aspects of chlamydia for nine years. The new funding, however, will allow the team to document in more detail how chlamydia causes pelvic inflammatory damage (PID). Observations will include what cell types appear during PID, how they develop and how the disease progresses. Moreover, researchers hope to begin developing a vaccine strategy once they understand which parts of the immune system need to be activated to form an effective defense against chlamydia.

The work of the UTSA chlamydia group has been profiled at various national and international meetings. This week, Arulanandam will appear in New Delhi, India, at the National Institute of Immunology annual conference to discuss his team's vaccination strategy for the prevention of upper genital tract infections of chlamydia. The research organization is the Indian equivalent of the NIH in the United States.

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