Extremely common, and highly contagious upon unprotected contact, chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) infecting humans and animals, and even amoeba. Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial STI in the United States, with approximately 2.86 million infections recorded annually. However, a large number of cases are not reported as most people with chlamydia do not realize they are carriers, with untreated Chlamydial infections causing serious consequences in women including infertility and ectopic pregnancy. Therefore, much research is currently being conducted into this condition. Now, a study from researchers led by Uppsala University discovers a new species of Chlamydia growing deep within the floor of the Arctic Ocean, without the need of a host. The team states their data provides new insights into how Chlamydia evolved to become reliant on human and animal hosts. The opensource study is published in the journal Current Biology.
Previous studies state Chlamydia and related bacteria in the same family, known as Chlamydiae, depend on interactions with host organisms to survive. Chlamydia interacts with organisms such as animals, plants and fungi, and even microbes such as amoeba and plankton. The Chlamydia bacteria can only survive living within a host with the majority of information about Chlamydiae provided by specimens grown in the lab which has proved to be constraining when gaining evolutionary and environmentally based information. The current study investigates whether other species of Chlamydiae exist in extreme environments, that are not lab-grown.
The current study collects and sequences the genetic material of samples from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent field located in the Arctic Ocean in-between Iceland, Norway, and Svalbard. Metagenomic analysis of all organisms obtained reveals a diverse population of Chlamydia living in deep Arctic Ocean sediments. Results show they live under oxygen-devoid conditions, high pressure and without a host organism.
The lab states they identified 163 different species of Chlamydiae in their marine sediment sample, expanding the known genomic diversity in
this family of bacteria by over a third. They go on to add the data indicates the diversity of chlamydiae species and that their abundance has been underappreciated, proffering new incites into the environmental distribution of Chlamydiae.
The team surmises they have discovered relatives of chlamydia between 0.1 and 9.4 meters under the Arctic seafloor with no apparent host organism. For the future, the researchers state the discovery of Chlamydiae in this extreme environment challenges the general consensus and hints at additional Chlamydiae still to be discovered.
Source: Wageningen University
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