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      Chlamydia psittaci: update on an underestimated zoonotic agent.

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          Chlamydia (C.) psittaci is an economically relevant pathogen in poultry and pet birds, where it causes psittacosis/ornithosis, and also a human pathogen causing atypical pneumonia after zoonotic transmission. Despite its well-documented prevalence, the agent has received less attention by researchers than other Chlamydia spp. in the last decades. In the present paper, we review recently published data on C. psittaci infection and attempt to single out characteristic features distinguishing it from related chlamydial agents. It is remarkable that C. psittaci is particularly efficient in disseminating in the host organism causing systemic disease, which occasionally can take a fulminant course. At the cellular level, the pathogen's broad host cell spectrum (from epithelial cells to macrophages), its rapid entry and fast replication, proficient use of intracellular transport routes to mitochondria and the Golgi apparatus, the pronounced physical association of chlamydial inclusions with energy-providing cell compartments, as well as the subversive regulation of host cell survival during productive and persistent states facilitate the characteristic efficient growth and successful host-to-host spread of C. psittaci. At the molecular level, the pathogen was shown to upregulate essential chlamydial genes when facing the host immune response. We hypothesize that this capacity, in concert with expression of specific effectors of the type III secretion system and efficient suppression of selected host defense signals, contributes to successful establishment of the infection in the host. Concerning the immunology of host-pathogen interactions, C. psittaci has been shown to distinguish itself by coping more efficiently than other chlamydiae with pro-inflammatory mediators during early host response, which can, to some extent, explain the effective evasion and adaptation strategies of this bacterium. We conclude that thorough analysis of the large number of whole-genome sequences already available will be essential to identify genetic markers of the species-specific features and trigger more in-depth studies in cellular and animal models to address such vital topics as treatment and vaccination.

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          Author and article information

          Pathog Dis
          Pathogens and disease
          Feb 2015
          : 73
          : 1
          [1 ] Institute of Immunology, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Isle of Riems, 07743 Jena, Germany.
          [2 ] Institute of Molecular Pathogenesis, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, 07743 Jena, Germany
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