Chlamydia pneumoniae is an enigmatic human and animal pathogen. Originally discovered in association with acute human respiratory disease, it is now associated with a remarkably wide range of chronic diseases as well as having a cosmopolitan distribution within the animal kingdom. Molecular typing studies suggest that animal strains are ancestral to human strains and that C. pneumoniae crossed from animals to humans as the result of at least one relatively recent zoonotic event. Whole genome analyses appear to support this concept – the human strains are highly conserved whereas the single animal strain that has been fully sequenced has a larger genome with several notable differences. When compared to the other, better known chlamydial species that is implicated in human infection, Chlamydia trachomatis, C. pneumoniae demonstrates pertinent differences in its cell biology, development, and genome structure.
This short review examine the characteristic aspects of C. pneumoniae biology, and offers insights into the diversity and evolution of this silent and ancient pathogen.