German researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology suggest that a persistent infection of Chlamydia may lead to a higher risk of cancer.
The link between Chlamydia and cervical and ovarian cancer occurs at the cellular level.
Chlamydia is an aggressive disease that enters hosts cells unnoticed and morphs the cell to better ensure its survival. This connection to the host cell leaves a mark on the genome and epi-genome of host cells which has been linked to the development of cancer, according to the study.
Cells infected with Chlamydia showed increased levels of DNA damage that did not repair itself as healthy cells do. These damaged cells continued to multiply, passing the DNA damage on to other cells.
The damage sets up a fault in the DNA protection, allowing for more rogue host cells, such an attack is common with cancer as well. Researchers hope that by making this connection, cancers caused by this cellular damage can be prevented by the use of vaccinations or antibiotics.
Chlamydia can go unnoticed because it may produce little or no symptoms for years, making it a dangerous sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is important to get regular STD tests to screen for Chlamydia. An untreated infection can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The infection can damage women’s reproductive organs and cause long-term pelvic pain.
Women who go undiagnosed may run another risk; the damage to the cells may make women infertile. Pelvic inflammatory disease can lead to infertility, or even ectopic pregnancy – a dangerous pregnancy where a fertilized egg attaches to the fallopian tube or another organ in the abdomen.