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In search for a vaccine, IU biologist receives $2.3 million to explore chlamydia genomics
Date:3/26/2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An Indiana University biologist has been awarded over $2.3 million from the National Institutes of Health to genetically modify variants of the human pathogen chlamydia in hopes of finding a vaccine for the most commonly reported bacterial infectious disease in the United States.

David E. Nelson, an assistant professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology, and researchers in his laboratory plan to genetically backtrack the trail of a consummate bacterial parasite -- Chlamydia trachomatis -- by mutating and characterizing the functions of targeted genes of the pathogen. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.3 million Americans were infected with chlamydia in 2010, the largest number of cases ever reported to CDC for any condition.

Nelson's team will use the NIH funding over the next five years to try to understand how the bacterial pathogen circumvents host immune systems and targets preferred tissues, resulting in sexually transmitted infections and blinding trachoma in hundreds of millions of people, as well as billions of dollars in annual health care costs worldwide.

"Understanding the pathogenesis of a disease, how it originates and develops, is by necessity a cross-disciplinary exercise that in this case brings together research in model organisms, microbiology and genomics in an attempt to better understand the virulence of a very nasty pathogen," Nelson said. "A major reason for gaps in our knowledge has been that bacteria in this genus, of which multiple variants are human pathogens, could not be genetically manipulated."

What limits genetic manipulation of chlamydia, and what makes it particularly nasty, he said, is that the bacteria live protected inside human and animal cells, which prevents the standard method of gene manipulation -- inserting foreign DNA into bacteria -- from being used.

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Contact: Steve Chaplin
stjchap@iu.edu
812-856-1896
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

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