Chlamydophila psittaci is a particularly dangerous type of bacteria. This bacteria is a zoonosis, meaning that it can be transmitted from an animal host to a human host, making it a more difficult bacteria to eradicate. It is a bacteria that is spread through respiratory droplets where it starts by infecting the lungs of humans.
In humans, Chlamydophila psittaci infections start by causing flu-like symptoms. Over time, the disease can cause pneumonia which is life-threatening. If the illness is diagnosed correctly, there are some antibiotics which can kill the bacteria.
Chlamydophila psittaci is particularly dangerous due to its two-part life cycle. It is a small bacteria, unable to see by the naked eye. In a bird host, the bacteria will form elementary bodies, which are not active and do not cause illness, but are extremely resistant to being killed and can survive in harsh conditions. The elementary bodies are spread from the bird to the lungs of a human.
Once inside the lungs, the protective cells of the body recognize the elementary bodies as being pathogens and try to kill the bacteria by engulfing them. This process is called phagocytosis. However, Chlamydophila psittaci is a virulent bacteria and can survive being engulfed by the cell. The elementary body transforms into a reticulate body and starts to multiply inside the cell. In order to survive, the reticulate bodies take over the cell’s machinery and use it to fuel the bacteria’s metabolic processes. After the cells have multiplied, they transform back into elementary bodies and break down the walls of the host cell, killing the cell and releasing the elementary bodies to infect more cells in the lungs. The process repeats and causes disease if not killed with antibiotics.
It is interesting to note that the life cycle of Chlamydophila psittaci is divided into two parts. The elementary bodies are able to infect new hosts, but are not able to multiply. The reticulate bodies are able to replicate themselves but are incapable of infecting new hosts. This bacteria is a unique species.