The Swedish new variant of Chlamydia trachomatis: genome sequence, morphology, cell tropism and phenotypic characterization

Microbiology (Reading). 2010 May;156(Pt 5):1394-1404. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.036830-0. Epub 2010 Jan 21.


Chlamydia trachomatis is a major cause of bacterial sexually transmitted infections worldwide. In 2006, a new variant of C. trachomatis (nvCT), carrying a 377 bp deletion within the plasmid, was reported in Sweden. This deletion included the targets used by the commercial diagnostic systems from Roche and Abbott. The nvCT is clonal (serovar/genovar E) and it spread rapidly in Sweden, undiagnosed by these systems. The degree of spread may also indicate an increased biological fitness of nvCT. The aims of this study were to describe the genome of nvCT, to compare the nvCT genome to all available C. trachomatis genome sequences and to investigate the biological properties of nvCT. An early nvCT isolate (Sweden2) was analysed by genome sequencing, growth kinetics, microscopy, cell tropism assay and antimicrobial susceptibility testing. It was compared with relevant C. trachomatis isolates, including a similar serovar E C. trachomatis wild-type strain that circulated in Sweden prior to the initially undetected expansion of nvCT. The nvCT genome does not contain any major genetic polymorphisms - the genes for central metabolism, development cycle and virulence are conserved - or phenotypic characteristics that indicate any altered biological fitness. This is supported by the observations that the nvCT and wild-type C. trachomatis infections are very similar in terms of epidemiological distribution, and that differences in clinical signs are only described, in one study, in women. In conclusion, the nvCT does not appear to have any altered biological fitness. Therefore, the rapid transmission of nvCT in Sweden was due to the strong diagnostic selective advantage and its introduction into a high-frequency transmitting population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Chlamydia Infections / diagnosis
  • Chlamydia Infections / epidemiology
  • Chlamydia Infections / transmission
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / genetics*
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / growth & development
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / isolation & purification
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / ultrastructure
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Inclusion Bodies
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phenotype
  • Plasmids
  • Species Specificity
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Tropism

Associated data

  • GENBANK/FN652779