Leading infectious cause of blindness linked to sexually transmitted infection

26 February 16

written by:

Ade Deane-Pratt

(more articles)

Chlamydia can exchange genes between sites of infection

Researchers have mapped the genome of the bacteria responsible for the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. Results show that genes from bacteria that cause trachoma in the eye can move into sexually transmitted versions that can, in turn, affect the eye.

Trachoma is responsible for irreversible blindness in 1.2 million people worldwide. It’s caused by infection with the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis in the membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the eyelids (the conjunctiva).

A major change in understanding

The new results mean a major change in how we understand the condition. It was previously thought that the type of Chlamydia that affects the eye was separate to the type that is sexually transmitted.

But there is now strong evidence that just one or two changes to a gene can turn sexually transmitted Chlamydia into a strain linked to trachoma.

Dr Dolores M Conroy, Director of Research at Fight for Sight, said:

“These results are highly important given that Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK and blinding trachoma is endemic in 51 countries, primarily in the poorest communities in the developing world.” 

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Read more about trachoma and the advances being made by Fight for Sight’s researchers to understand more about who is at risk of being blinded.