The chlamydiae are obligate intracellular gram-negative bacteria that are exquisitely adapted for exploitation of their hosts and contribute to a wide range of acute and chronic human diseases. Acute infections treated with non-cidal antibiotics can lead to the development of persistent, non-replicating bacteria with the corollary that these persistent (yet viable) chlamydiae can resist eradication by further antimicrobial treatment and cause chronic disease. These findings highlight an urgent need for therapeutics that are effective against persistent infections and call for creative approaches to identify potential drug targets. The C. pneumoniae and C. trachomatis genome projects have greatly expanded our knowledge of chlamydial pathogenesis and have provided an enormous potential for the identification and characterization of unknown genes and potential virulence factors in these bacteria. As intracellular pathogens, chlamydiae rely on host cells for all aspects of their survival, from the initial attachment with host cell membranes, to cellular invasion, acquisition of host cell metabolites and intracellular replication. As such, the molecules participating in interactions with the host could be attractive targets for therapeutic intervention. This review describes recent advances in chlamydial genomics, proteomics and cell biology that have cast light on host-pathogen relations that are essential for chlamydial survival. Using this knowledge, we discuss how strategically interfering with essential interactions between chlamydiae and the host cell could be exploited to develop an innovative, and potentially more relevant arsenal of therapeutic compounds.
Keywords: Chlamydia, drug targets, host-pathogen interactions, virulence, intracellular survival
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