Washington: Researchers have said that when Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria responsible for gonorrhea, are exposed to seminal plasma, the liquid part of semen containing secretions from the male genital tract, they can more easily move and start to colonize.
Lead study author Mark Anderson said that their study illustrates an aspect of biology that was previously unknown, asserting that if seminal fluid facilitates motility, it could help transmit gonorrhea from person to person.
H. Steven Seifert, another author on the study, said that research characterizing the mechanisms of pathogenesis and transmission of N. gonorrhoeae is important for developing new prevention strategies, since antibiotic resistance of the organism is becoming increasingly prevalent.
In a series of laboratory experiments, the investigators studied the ability of N. gonorrhoeae to move through a synthetic barrier, finding that 24 times as many bacteria could pass through after being exposed to seminal plasma.
Exposure to seminal plasma caused hairlike appendages on the bacteria surface, called pili, to move the cells by a process known as twitching motility. This stimulatory effect could be seen even at low concentrations of seminal plasma and beyond the initial influx of seminal fluid.
Additional tests found that exposure to seminal plasma also enhanced the formation of bacterial microcolonies on human epithelial cells (cells that line body cavities), which can also promote the establishment of infection.
The research has been published online in journal of the American Society for Microbiology.