Geographic variation and environmental conditions as cofactors in chlamydia psittaci association with ocular adnexal lymphomas: a comparison between Italian and African samples

Alessandro Carugi, University of Siena
Anna Onnis, University of Siena
Giuseppina Antonicelli, University of Siena
Benedetta Rossi, University of Siena
Susanna Mannucci, University of Siena
Anna Luzzi, University of Siena
Stefano Lazzi, University of Siena
Cristiana Bellan, University of Siena
Gian Marco Tosi, University of Siena
Shaheen Sayed, Aga Khan University
Giulia De Falco, University of Siena
Lorenzo Leoncini, University of Siena


A particular extra-nodal lymphoma type arises from B cells of the marginal zone (MZ) of mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT). The aetiology of MZ lymphomas suggests that they are associated with chronic antigenic stimulation by microbial pathogens, among which Helicobacter pylori-associated gastricMALT lymphoma is the best studied. Recently, MALT lymphomas have been described in the context of chronic conjunctivitis, which can be associated with Chlamydia spp. infection. Studies from Italy showed the presence of Chlamydia psittaci in 87% of ocular adnexal lymphomas (OAL), and C. psittaci has been described in a large part of samples from Austria and Korea as well. However, this finding was not always confirmed by other studies, suggesting that the association with C. psittaci may depend on geographic heterogeneity. Interestingly, none of the studies up to now has been carried out in the African population, where a strong association between infectious agents and the occurrence of human neoplasms has been reported. This study was designed to investigate the possible association of Chlamydia psittaci in cases retrieved from Kenya, compared to cases from Italy. Our results showed that there was a marked variation between the two geographical areas in terms of association with C. psittaci, as 17% (5/30) of the samples from Italy were positive for C. psittaci, whereas no association with this pathogen was observed in any of the African samples (0/9), suggesting that other cofactors may determine the OAL occurrence in those areas. OAL cases are often characterized by down-regulation of p16/INK4a expression and promoter hypermethylation of the p16/INK4a gene. Our results showed a partial methylation of p16/INK4a promoter in C. psittacinegative cases, whereas no hypermethylation of this gene was found in C. psittaci-positive cases, suggesting that mechanisms other than promoter hypermethylation lead to p16/INK4a silencing in C. psittaci-positive cases. We may conclude that the role of epidemiologic, environmental and genetic factors, must be considered in the aetiology of this disease.