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Open Access Research article

Detection of Chlamydia in the peripheral blood cells of normal donors using in vitro culture, immunofluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry techniques

Frances Cirino1, Wilmore C Webley1, Corrie West1, Nancy L Croteau, Chester Andrzejewski12 and Elizabeth S Stuart1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst Massachusetts, 01003, USA

2 Department of Transfusion Medicine Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, Massachusetts, 01199, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2006, 6:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-6-23

Published: 10 February 2006

Abstract

Background

Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) and Chlamydia pneumoniae (Cp) are medically significant infectious agents associated with various chronic human pathologies. Nevertheless, specific roles in disease progression or initiation are incompletely defined. Both pathogens infect established cell lines in vitro and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has detected Chlamydia DNA in various clinical specimens as well as in normal donor peripheral blood monocytes (PBMC). However, Chlamydia infection of other blood cell types, quantification of Chlamydia infected cells in peripheral blood and transmission of this infection in vitro have not been examined.

Methods

Cp specific titers were assessed for sera from 459 normal human donor blood (NBD) samples. Isolated white blood cells (WBC) were assayed by in vitro culture to evaluate infection transmission of blood cell borne chlamydiae. Smears of fresh blood samples (FB) were dual immunostained for microscopic identification of Chlamydia-infected cell types and aliquots also assessed using Flow Cytometry (FC).

Results

ELISA demonstrated that 219 (47.7%) of the NBD samples exhibit elevated anti-Cp antibody titers. Imunofluorescence microscopy of smears demonstrated 113 (24.6%) of samples contained intracellular Chlamydia and monoclonals to specific CD markers showed that in vivo infection of neutrophil and eosinophil/basophil cells as well as monocytes occurs. In vitro culture established WBCs of 114 (24.8%) of the NBD samples harbored infectious chlamydiae, clinically a potentially source of transmission, FC demonstrated both Chlamydia infected and uninfected cells can be readily identified and quantified.

Conclusion

NBD can harbor infected neutrophils, eosinophil/basophils and monocytes. The chlamydiae are infectious in vitro, and both total, and cell type specific Chlamydia carriage is quantifiable by FC.