Recurrent or persistent infections with Chlamydia trachomatis are thought to provide the antigenic stimulus for the chronic inflammation associated with blinding trachoma. We used the guinea pig model of inclusion conjunctivitis to identify chlamydial antigens that may be involved in this deleterious immune response. We purified from chlamydial elementary bodies a genus-specific 57-kD protein that elicited an ocular hypersensitivity response when placed topically onto the conjunctiva of ocular immune guinea pigs. This response was characterized by a predominantly mononuclear macrophage and lymphocyte cellular infiltrate of the submucosal epithelium. The clinical and histological findings were consistent with those of a delayed hypersensitivity response. These data demonstrated that the 57-kD chlamydial protein was a potent stimulator of ocular delayed hypersensitivity. Our findings may be critical to understanding the pathogenesis of the debilitating chlamydial diseases associated with chronic inflammation, such as trachoma and many urogenital syndromes.

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