Throughout their known history, the bacteria in phylum Chlamydiae have fascinated scientists due to their unique morphology and survival strategies. The main human pathogens among this group of obligate intracellular paracites are C. trachomatis, a sexually transmitted species, and C. pneumoniae, a ubiquitous pathogen primarily infecting the respiratory tract.

According to seroepidemiological data, the vast majority of Western population is infected by C. pneumoniae at some stage of their life, the clinical picture of the infection varying from asymptomatic to severe pneumonia. While the first reports on antimicrobial drug resistance among chlamydial species have emerged within recent years, the major therapeutic challenge with these infectious agents lies in their inherent propensity for persistence.  The non-replicating persistent form of the bacterium, triggered by host cell innate responses and environmental factors such as beta-lactam antibiotics may reside within the infected cells for years, and due to its ability to manipulate the local microenvironment to favour its survival, is predisposing its carrier to a long-lasting inflammatory state. Collectively, these aspects form the basis for C. pneumoniae being suggested as one risk factor for chronic inflammatory diseases.

Finding more effective antichlamydial agents and therapeutic strategies capable of eradicating also the persistent forms of C. pneumoniae infections, as well as suppressing its pathological consequences, is the leading principle of the Chlamydia-related research conducted in AIR.

The strategies we have successfully applied for the discovery of novel Chlamydia-selective nonconventional antichlamydial agents include multi-target therapeutics, ethnopharmacological and epidemiological approaches, pharmacophore-based modeling of antimicrobial peptides as well as ligand-based and target-based virtual screening, in combination with phenotypic in vitro assays. Besides discovery of the nonconventional antichlamydial agents, the research lines involve innovative formulations and the in-depth characterization of the new agents in terms of C. pneumoniae –induced inflammatory and other pathological host cell responses. 

For more details on our recent findings, see:
Hanski, L. and Vuorela, PM. Lead discovery strategies for identification of Chlamydia pneumoniae inhibitors. Microorganisms. 2016. 4: E43.