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UM-Baltimore Wins $12.2M for Chlamydia Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has granted $12.2 million to the University of Maryland, Baltimore, to conduct genomic analysis of the bacteria that causes Chlamydia and how it interacts within the human body, UMB said today.

A multidisciplinary group at UMB, including specialists in clinical human STD studies, and biostatistical and bioinformatics data analysis, will use genome mapping of changes that happen in the bacteria as it interacts with other microbes in the body. Specifically, they will study the genomic diversity of the disease and the body, and will characterize the relationship between chlamydial infections and the vaginal microbiome.

The study will analyze samples from hundreds of infected women and men and will look for elements in the human microbiota that provide some disease protection. A parallel study will involve sexual transmission of chlamydia in guinea pigs.

Chlamydia has become the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US, with over one million cases reported in 2006, and it is believed to be "greatly under-reported," UMB said.

"The bacteria in the microbiota serve as a first line of defense against infection," Jacques Ravel, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Institute for Genome Sciences, said in a statement. "We will develop a better understanding of how chlamydia can establish an infection in spite of that protection."

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