According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, which can damage a woman's reproductive organs. In women, symptoms are usually mild or absent. Serious complications can cause irreversible damage, including infertility, before a woman ever recognizes a problem. In men, Chlamydia complications can also cause discharge from the penis of an infected male.
The most recent report from the CDC indicates 930,000 cases of Chlamydial infection were reported in the United States in 2004. It's estimated annually, that the number of new cases of Chlamydia infection has risen to more than 2.8 million.
After three years of trial-and-error, Ashlesh Murthy, a post-doctoral student in the UTSA Cell and Molecular Biology program has found success in administering a chlamydial prevention vaccine in mouse models. The next step will be to test the vaccine in larger animals, primarily guinea pigs.
"This is a very prevalent disease in women throughout the world and the biggest problem is that most infected women never show any symptoms, so they never get treated," said Murthy. "When Chlamydia is left untreated, it can lead to severe complications including pelvic-inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancies and infertility."
Murthy's research is guided by Bernard Arulanandam, an associate professor of biology who began studying Chlamydia six years ago.
"With the recent success of the human papilloma virus vaccine, developed to prevent cervical cancer in young women, I think the urgency to develop a Chlamydia prevention vaccine is on the horizon," said Arulanandam.
The UTSA researchers have been working with Guangming Zhong, a professor of microbiology at UTHSC, whose lab has been identifying antigens or proteins in Chlamydia as vaccine candidates and providing them for the UTSA researchers to analyze for their efficacy.
Collaborating together is nothing new for Arulanandam and Murthy. The pair have worked together since 2003 when Murthy enrolled in UTSA's first cell and molecular biology doctoral program. In May 2006, Murthy was UTSA's first recipient of a doctoral degree in cell and molecular biology.
Arulanandam is one of 19 faculty members in UTSA's new South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases. The center researchers focus on critical areas of human health including anthrax, tularemia, cholera, Lyme disease, desert valley fever and other parasitic and fungal diseases.
The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the premier institutions of higher education in South Texas and one of the fastest growing universities in the state. One of nine academic universities and six health institutions that comprise the UT System, UTSA is the second largest institution in the system. Celebrating its 37th anniversary, UTSA serves more than 28,300 students enrolled in 62 bachelor's, 43 master's and 20 doctoral degree programs.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $536 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $14.3 billion biosciences and health care industry, the leading sector in San Antonio's economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg.