Chlamydia is the bane of society. Young people afflicted with it could suffer from infertility and others life-threatening health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 1.7 million cases reported in 2017, making it the most sexually transmitted disease of all.
The worst part is that there are still many people who don’t know they have the disease, leaving to spread the bacteria unknowingly.
Although drug treatment is on hand, the CDC reinfection is not unheard of and suggests doctors retest patients after treatment. Due to the widespread problem, the research community to actively looking for other treatment ideas and vaccines.
Although the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria is tough, it’s still unable to survive on its own. It must attach itself to a healthy cell, manipulating it to live. A couple of Southern Illinois University Carbondale researchers are looking at how chlamydia lives inside its host cells.
Chemistry and Biochemistry associate professor Kyle Plunkett and Microbiology associate professor Derek Fisher got together and attained a $ 442,000-second fund National Institutes of Health grant for research to continue. Altogether, the researchers have received $860,000 in grant month.
Both researchers, as well as undergraduate and graduate student researchers, have looked at a particular enzyme that flags proteins by attaching a phosphate molecule to them. They’re also looking at the enzyme that sends the molecule on its way. This process is known as phosphorylation and could help in the development of new drugs or vaccines to treat or prevent the disease.
The researchers’ goal is to develop a chemical way in which to hinder the process. They are first observing the bacteria and how it infects a healthy cell, then how it can replicate itself and, finally, how it changes from the two forms.
The infection type of chlamydia (called the elementary body), the bacteria comes into contact with epithelial cells and uses its syringe-like part to get into the cell membrane so that it can give cells special proteins. The proteins allow the bacteria to consume the cell and envelope with another membrane structure known as an inclusion.
After the bacteria gets inside, it changes into a reticulate body and reproduces until the cell ruptures and move onto other cells, changing back to its original process where it begins again.
Fisher said researchers still don’t understand how the bacteria’s infectious form knows when it needs to invade the cells and know when it’s time to change form. It’s assumed that it receives signals but the mechanics of it is unknown.
The researchers are going to look at how phosphorylation plays a part in the chlamydial growth and development. Fisher said they hypothesize that the process has a hand in the chlamydial regulatory process, telling and helping it to carry out its job.
The study will look at the one protein phosphatase and three protein kinases, which were noted as being worthwhile research avenues in the first funding round. The Pkn5 is regarded as the most interesting as it’s the kind the bacteria injected into a host cell using the syringe-like projection.
Plunkett will look at the synthesis of new molecules to can hinder the protein phosphatase called CppA and how it hinders its part. He is altering the molecules’ molecular structure researchers have noted hinder CppA to better the effectiveness.
The NIH grant money will be used to pay for additional graduate student, two undergrad student research assistants for three years, conference attendance, lab consumables and publications for sharing results.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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