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Crop Biotech Update

Newly Designed Molecule Blocks Chlamydia

August 5, 2011

Duke University scientists have discovered a technique that impedes the destructive effects of chlamydia, the bacteria causing sexually transmitted infections in humans. Chlamydia infections have no symptoms but may become chronic in women and eventually cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility since it infects the cells located in the uterus and fallopian tubes.

During infection, chlamydia produces a virulence factor known as chlamydial protease-like activity factor (CPAF). CPAF prevents the natural mechanism of cells to commit suicide when invaded by a pathogen, thus giving the bacteria more time to stay in the cells and multiply. The researchers developed a molecule called CPAF-specific inhibitory peptide which targets the CPAF functions in protecting the bacteria when they hide in the vacuoles of human cells.

"Chlamydia is unique among pathogens, in that it can co-exist within humans without causing symptoms for a long time. This reflects a careful balance between the host and the pathogen. We think CPAF is central to this balance. Therefore, if we disarm it, we can tilt the equation toward the human host and mount an effective immune response that will not only clear the infection but prevent it from re-emerging," explained Raphael Valdivia, one of the authors of the study.

Read the news release at http://www.dukehealth.org/health_library/news/newly-designed-molecule-blocks-chlamydia-bacteria. The research paper is available for Cell Host and Microbe subscribers at http://www.cell.com/cell-host-microbe/abstract/S1931-3128(11)00198-3.