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Mouse Model Demonstrates Immune System Reaction In Chlamydia Infection

Harvard Medical School (HMS) researchers have mapped out the way immune system in mouse models responds to germs in the genital tract //during the initial stage of Chlamydia trachomatis infection. The study is published in the July 24 early edition online of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and could prove important in the development of vaccine against the disease.

"Right now Chlamydia is sensitive to treatment with antibiotics, but the problem is that many people have 'silent' infections that remain untreated," said researcher Michael Starnbach, PhD, HMS associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics. "These undiagnosed infections over time lead to complications like tubal pregnancy and infertility. The goal would be to vaccinate young people to keep them from suffering from undiagnosed infection and the bad outcomes associated with it."

Most pathogens (disease-causing bacteria or viruses) enter a host by penetrating mucosal surfaces such as the lung, intestine, or genito-urinary tract. The prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases has prompted studies to understand how infection is established in the genital tract and how pathogens are cleared from this site. Before Starnbach's study, however, it had not been possible to monitor invader-specific T cell (fighter cell) responses to initial infection in reproductive tissue, despite the recognized importance of T cells in controlling a number of genital pathogens

"Humans and mice have an enormous variety of T cells that are prepared to respond to pathogens – even pathogens to which they have never been exposed," Starnbach said. "Yet prior to infection, the number of T cells specific for any single pathogen is extremely low. The number is so low that it is impossible to track and monitor the activity of these T cells during their first encounter with the microbe."

To circumvent the problem, Starnbach and colleagues in the HMS Department of
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