Chlamydia trachomatis

Bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis
Chlamydia trachomatis

What is Chlamydia trachomatis?

Chlamydia trachomatis – an intracellular Gram-negative bacterium – causes infections of the urogenital tract and chronic conjunctival infections, so-called trachomas. Chlamydia infections are among the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) worldwide. The genera Chlamydophila (Cp.) and Chlamydia (C.) of the family Chlamydiaceae comprise the three human pathogenic species C. trachomatis, Cp. psittaci and Cp. pneumoniae. Due to a defect in their own energy metabolism, Chlamydia depends on the metabolism of their host cells. For this reason, and because of its small size, chlamydia was classified as a virus until the 1960s. Since 1966 these have their own Chlamydiales bacterial order.

How is Chlamydia trachomatis transmitted?

Serotypes D-K can only be transmitted by sexual contact and perinatally. Genital chlamydia infections occur predominantly in women between 16 and 19 years and men between 20 and 24 years. Experts cite increased sexual activity at this age as the reason for this. The infection rate declines sharply with increasing age and increasingly stable partnerships. Newborns can also be affected during vaginal birth if the mother’s birth canal is infected with Chlamydia trachomatis. Pregnant women are routinely tested for Chlamydia trachomatis before birth to rule out serious consequences for mother and child.

The serotypes A, B and C are transmitted through infectious eye secretions or contaminated hands and towels (smear infection).

The incubation period for all serotypes is about one to three weeks.

What are symptoms of the disease?

Chlamydia infection can reveal itself in different ways. Serotypes D-K cause urogenital infections, occasionally also infections of the conjunctiva as well as infections in newborns following perinatal transmission. Serotypes A, B and C can cause trachoma, a chronic recurrent disease of the conjunctiva and corneas of the eye that is particularly common in the tropics.

Experts estimate that urogenital infections are asymptomatic in 70% to 80% of women and 50% of men.

Chlamydia, however, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, which can cause perihepatitis (peritonitis involving the liver capsule), chronic pain and adhesion of the fallopian tubes. In the worst case, this can lead to infertility.

In men, genital infections caused by Chlamydia trachomatis occur as inflammation of the urethra, which is particularly noticeable in pain during urination and purulent discharge. If an infection remains untreated, the pathogens can ascend into the prostate and epididymis, which can also lead to infertility.

In the acute stage, genital chlamydia infections can be effectively treated with antibiotics.

Significance for infections in hospitals and in the outpatient sector

To prevent infections, hygiene practices – including hand disinfection, disinfection of examination and treatment instruments used, surface disinfection – must be observed, especially in the field of ophthalmology. In contrast to most other European countries, chlamydia infections are not subject to reporting in Germany. The federal state of Saxony is excluded, where laboratories must register chlamydia and gonorrhoea. In Germany, a test (chlamydia screening) for genital chlamydia infections has been available in women under the age of 25 years since 2008.

Survival time of pathogens on inanimate surfaces

Less than 30 hours.

Disinfectant effectiveness for prevention

The required spectrum of activity against Chlamydia trachomatis is: bactericidal.

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