The relation between chronic respiratory disease and infection with Chlamydia trachomatis in premature infants was investigated to ascertain the aetiological importance of intrauterine C trachomatis infection and chronic respiratory disease in premature infants. Serum IgM antibodies against C trachomatis were determined by enzyme linked fluorescence assay. Sections of lung tissues obtained by biopsy and at necropsy were also tested for the presence of antigens using fluorescein conjugated monoclonal antibodies to C trachomatis. Of 16 sera from premature infants with chronic respiratory diseases clinically diagnosed as bronchopulmonary dysplasia or the Wilson-Mikity syndrome, five had IgM antibodies to C trachomatis L2 strain by enzyme linked fluorescence assay (titre greater than or equal to 1/500). Of 37 sera from premature infants with extremely low birth weights, two had IgM antibodies to C trachomatis. No specific IgM antibody was detected in 31 neonates who showed raised serum IgM concentrations but who did not have respiratory tract symptoms. C trachomatis was identified from two specimens of lung tissue obtained at necropsy from premature infants with chronic respiratory disease positive for IgM antibody. These findings indicate the aetiological importance of intrauterine C trachomatis infection in chronic respiratory disease in premature infants.
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