An international study has revealed that tiny genetic mutations are enough to create a virulent form of chlamydia, which leads to serious sexual disease in men.
The researchers behind the study — including experts from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the University of Southampton Medical School, University College London and the University of California, Berkeley — say that the strain that causes lymphogranuloma vernerum (LGV) is very similar to other forms of chlamydia.
They have also found that the ability of the disease to thrive might be altered significantly as a result of as few as two gene differences.
LGV causes serious inflammation of the rectum, and may lead to permanent problems if untreated, according to background information in a report published in Genome Research.
The researchers say that they have found that the recent form of LGV is very identical to one that had been isolated 40 years ago. According to them, the new finding indicates that people are not facing any novel or more dangerous organism.
They, however, have observed that the LGV strain is very similar to another form of chlamydia that causes an eye infection, called ch, which caus
But they also found that the LGV strain was very similar to chlamydia trachomatis, a form of chlamydia that causes an eye infection.
"Chlamydia trachomatis has almost 900 genes and we found fewer than 10 that differed significantly between the trachoma and the LGV strains," the BBC quoted Dr. Nick Thomson of the Wellcome Trust as saying.
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. Although it can be easily treated with the help of antibiotics, it remains to be a "silent infection" most often, with many people not showing any obvious symptoms until the disease has spread.
The researchers say that the small but key differences between the strains, explained by small-scale DNA mutations, may provide new markers for better diagnosis.
"It's a very interesting piece of research. The prospect that you could alter the gene sequence so it could not be replicated is very exciting indeed," said Dr Gillian Vanhegan, medical spokesperson for Brook Advisory Centres.