Can Chlamydia Lay Dormant In Your Body?
Chlamydial Trachomatis Transmission and Pathogenic Characteristics
Sexual transmission is the main mode of transmission for chlamydia trachomatis. The sexual contact may include forms such as vaginal sex, receptive oral sex that infects the pharyngeal mucosa and anal sexual contact that causes infection of the rectal mucosa and colonization of the gut. However, the organisms could also arise from it dormancy states within the body to cause a full-blown infection as discussed in this article. It is important to note that chlamydia cannot be transmitted via contact of infected fluids or instruments such as exposure to contaminated hot pools or procedures such as PAP smears that involve the cervix. This is because of the special characteristics of the chlamydia trachomatis organism.
The organism has very specific requirements for survival and growth that include, but not limited to a columnar epithelium for infection, thus the organisms mainly attack the cervix urethra and the cornea. Secondly, the organisms require a high concentration of the infective stages to cause an infection. Lastly, it is easily destroyed by chlorine-based detergents that are commonly used in pools and in sterilization of medical equipment. Therefore, the dormant chlamydia organisms are responsible for most cases of recurrence and as such the topic must be understood in the right context.
Chlamydia Trachomatis Spread and “dormancy” Patterns
The organism has a slow replication cycle and thus takes a long time before reaching the concentration threshold for symptomatic presentation. It is because of this that the incubation period of chlamydia trachomatis is poorly defined although it is estimated to be between 7 to 21 days. The disease presents with no symptoms in more than half of persons with laboratory confirmed disease. This is explained by the fact that chlamydia can remain in the body for up to 1 year in men and 18 to 24 months in women without causing any symptoms. This is not dormancy per say, but an asymptomatic phase of the disease. The disease invades the cervix to cause mucopurulent cervicitis that may spread to cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women while men present with features of urethritis and epididymitis.
Infection of the rectal mucosa may rarely cause proctitis. The most common outcome is the formation of a safe harbor for the organism. Similarly, receptive oral sexual intercourse may lead to pharyngitis or further inoculation of the organism in the throat mucosa. In the gut, the chlamydia organisms do not face an immune response from the body and also most antibiotics that are used for the treatment of the disease only target the urinary organisms. Thus, the organism is able to remain in a true dormancy state in the gut that can cause re-infection in the same person long after treatment has been completed.
It is important to note that initial infection of the genital mucosa with chlamydial organisms lead to a protracted subclinical phase that may manifest when complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease and subfertility have occurred while it has been shown that initial infection of the gut with chlamydial organisms cause the body to form memory of the organism and any genital infection thereafter is cleared by the strong immune response that is mounted by the body. This is an are worth further exploration for the manufacture of vaccines against chlamydia infections.
In summary, chlamydia trachomatis is the causative organism for chlamydia infection. It is transmitted via any form of sexual contact from vaginal sex, oral sex and anal sex resulting in different outcomes from the same organism. Vaginal sexual transmission leads to infection of the genital mucosa after long periods of subclinical disease. The asymptomatic presentation is known as a false dormancy state and occurs due to the features of the bacterium as it is a spore forming bacteria that has a slow replication cycle.
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