The immunobiology and immunopathology of chlamydial infections

APMIS. 1995 Nov;103(11):769-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1699-0463.1995.tb01436.x.


Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens of eukaryotic cells responsible for a wide variety of important human and animal infections. In humans, chlamydial infections are generally localised to superficial epithelial or mucosal surfaces, are frequently asymptomatic and may persist for long periods of time if untreated, inducing little protective immunity. Nevertheless, neutralising antibodies of limited efficacy are produced against the main chlamydial outer envelope protein, while gamma interferon (IFN gamma) is chlamydiastatic and paradoxically may play a role both in chlamydial persistence and in protective immunity. Delayed hypersensitivity responses to chlamydiae caused by repeated or persistent infection are thought to be important in the development of the severe scarring sequelae characteristic of cicatricial trachoma and of chronic salpingitis. Chlamydial heat shock proteins bearing close homology with their human equivalents may be major targets for immunopathological responses and their expression is upregulated in IFN gamma induced persistent infection. C. pneumoniae, a common cause of acute respiratory infection in humans, may persist in coronary arteries and is strongly implicated as a risk factor in atherosclerosis and in acute myocardial infarction. This paper reviews the immunology and immunopathology of chlamydial infections in the context of the unique biology of this fascinating but challenging group of organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlamydia Infections / immunology*
  • Chlamydia Infections / pathology*
  • Humans