Chlamydia trachomatis is a bacterial (a group of micro organisms), which cause disease in man and birds. Some bird chlamydia infections can be transmitted to man.
The chlamydia disease’s history can be traced back to 15 B.C in Egypt where it manifested itself as an eye infection (trachoma). It also occurred in China and Mesopotamia. The disease was easily spread as people moved to urban areas with poor living conditions.
The disease was introduced into Europe by solders returning home from wars. It became a major health problem but was effectively combated in early 20th century. The disease is presently common in urban areas of developing countries that have unhygienic loving conditions.
Chlamydia trachomatis affects human beings in three ways: either as trachoma (contagious inflammation affecting conjunctiva, cornea and eyelids), urethritis (non-gonococcal inflammation of the urethra) and as lymphogranuloma venereum (tropical venereal disease caused by a virus spread by lymphatics and may cause severe periproctitis or rectal stricture in women).
Chlamydia trachomatis in men can cause prostatitis, trachoma and epididymitis. Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate glands, the small conical glands at the base of the male bladder and surrounding the first part of the urethra.
Trachoma is eye infection while epididymitis is the inflammation of the epididymis, a small oblong body attached to the posterior surface of the testes, consisting of the tubules that convey spermatozoa from the testes to the vas deferens (the excretory duct of the testis).
In women, chlamydia trachomatis causes trachoma, cervicitis, pelvic inflammation disease and ectopic pregnancy. Cervicitis is the inflammation of the uterine cervix (the neck of the cervix). Pelvic disease is any infection that occurs in the pelvic area, causing severe pain that can extend to the lower abdomen.
Ectopic pregnancy is the pregnancy that occurs within the fallopian tube. Such pregnancy causes the fallopian tube to rupture at about six weeks of the pregnancy, necessitating the need for emergency care.
Chlamydia trachomatis also affects infants born of mothers who are infected. The baby acquires the disease from the mother’s genital tract at time of delivery. Such babies will develop neonatal trachoma and pulmonary complications. The orbits of the eyes swell and produce a discharge.
The nasophariynx (the portion of the pharynx above the soft palate) may also be affected. Pulmonary complications include pulmonary emphysema, pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary oedema. If left untreated, a baby infected can develop neonatal pneumonia that is characterised by acute coughing and chest congestion.
Chlamydia trachomatis can be transmitted from one person to another through several means:
- Sex – Those with the disease easy transmit the same to their partners. This is whether it is oral, vaginal or anal sex.
- Mother to child – Pregnant women with the disease can infect their babies at time of giving birth.
- Bird-human transmission – Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria infects birds too, and consuming meat of birds infected can result in transmission of the disease.
- Through contact with infected materials such as towels.
Although a simple disease, chlamydia trachomatis is a serious disease with devastating effects. However, it can effectively be treated and combated.