Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial pathogen causing female genital tract infection throughout the world. Reinfection with the same serovar, as well as multiple infections with different serovars, occurs in humans. Using a murine model of female C. trachomatis genital tract infection, we determined if homotypic and/or heterotypic protection against reinfection was induced following infection with human oculogenital strains of C. trachomatis belonging to two serovars (D and H) that have been shown to vary significantly in the course of infection in the murine model.
Groups of outbred CF-1 mice were reinfected intravaginally with a strain of either serovar D or H, two months after initial infection with these strains. Cellular immune and serologic status, both quantitative and qualitative, was assessed following initial infection, and the course of infection was monitored by culturing vaginal samples collected every 2–7 days following reinfection.
Serovar D was both more virulent (longer duration of infection) and immunogenic (higher level of circulating and vaginal IgG and higher incidence of IgA in vaginal secretions) in the mouse genital tract. Although both serovars induced cross-reacting antibodies during the course of primary infection, prior infection with serovar H resulted in only a slight reduction in the median duration of infection against homotypic reinfection (p ~ 0.10), while prior infection with serovar D resulted in significant reduction in the median duration of infection against both homotypic (p < 0.01) and heterotypic reinfection (p < 0.01) when compared to primary infection in age and conditions matched controls.
Serovar D infection resulted in significant homotypic and heterotypic protection against reinfection, while primary infection with serovar H resulted in only slight homotypic protection. In addition to being the first demonstration of acquired heterotypic immunity between human oculogenital serovars, the differences in the level and extent of this immunity could in part explain the stable difference in serovar prevalence among human isolates.