Co-Occurrence of Chlamydia suis DNA and Chlamydia suis-Specific Antibodies in the Human Eye

Evelien Kieckens*, Laura Van den Broeck, Mathias Van Gils, Servaas Morre, Daisy Vanrompay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Web of Science)


Chlamydia suis is a swine pathogen that causes economic losses due to reproductive failure. Recently, C. suis has been detected in human eyes. However, knowledge of the zoonotic potential is still limited. C. suis infections in swine could present a risk for public health because (1) tetracycline-resistant C. suis strains are emerging in the pork industry, (2) tetracycline resistance gene transfers in vitro from C. suis to the human pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis and as previously demonstrated, (3) C. suis and C. trachomatis can be both present in the human eye. Pig farmers were sampled during a seminar in West-Flanders. Conjunctival swabs for detection of C. suis and C. trachomatis and for the detection of mucosal antibodies against C. suis and C. trachomatis were collected. The farmers completed a questionnaire designed to assess information on the following: (1) the health status of their pigs, (2) administration of veterinary drugs, (3) their professional and nonprofessional activities, (4) general health status, (5) smoking habits, (6) use of medication, (7) allergies, and (8) clinical signs/history. Thirty-three on 40 (82.5%) farmers participated. None of the conjunctival swabs contained C. trachomatis DNA and mucosal antibodies against C. trachomatis were not detected. Six of 33 (18.2%) farmers had C. suis DNA in their eyes and 22 of 33 (67%) swabs contained C. suis-specific mucosal antibodies. The older the farmer, higher the chance of finding C. suis antibodies in the eye. There was a significant correlation between the presence of conjunctivitis in the pigs and the occurrence of C. suis DNA in the eye of their owner. This study shows that C. suis may transfer from pigs to the human eye as specific mucosal antibodies were detected in conjunctivae of pig farmers. Veterinarians, general practitioners, and occupational physicians should be aware of the zoonotic potential of C. suis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-682
Number of pages6
JournalVector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2018


  • Chlamydia suis
  • Chlamydia trachomatis
  • swine
  • zoonosis
  • eye

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