Unemo M, Clarke IN
Curr. Opin. Infect. Dis. 24 (1) 62-69 [2011-02-00; online 2010-12-16]
This review focuses on the anatomy of the Swedish new variant of Chlamydia trachomatis (nvCT). This information provides an interesting insight into the emergence of new strains (how, where, and when), and the important lessons learned are discussed. In late 2006, the nvCT was first reported in Sweden; it carries a 377 bp deletion within its plasmid which covers the single targets originally used by Roche and Abbott diagnostic systems. The nvCT spread rapidly with thousands of falsely negative diagnoses. Genome sequencing and phenotypic characterization showed that the biological fitness of nvCT when compared with wild-type CT in vitro is unaltered. Therefore, the rapid transmission of nvCT was due to the selective advantage gained from failed diagnosis and the introduction of nvCT into a high-frequency transmitting population. The proportions of nvCT cases are now converging toward equilibrium with the wild-type CT strains. Interestingly, the nvCT remains rarely reported beyond the Nordic countries. The spread of nvCT had a substantial impact on C. trachomatis identification, epidemiology, and public health in Sweden. Lessons learned from this experience include the importance of investigating the incidence and epidemiology of infection in detail, the frequent participation in appropriate quality assurance schemes, and the careful design of diagnostic assays. The nvCT presents a unique opportunity to study the spread of a single C. trachomatis strain within both the human and bacterial populations; this may substantially increase our knowledge of epidemiology and transmission of chlamydial infections, and other sexually transmitted infections.