Chlamydia is one of the most common of all sexually transmitted infections, and now the very first steps toward the creation of a vaccine for the disease have finally been taken.
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that can affect both men and women, sometimes resulting in permanent damage to the female reproductive system that makes it unlikely, or even impossible, for women to later become pregnant, as well as heightening the prospect of an ectopic pregnancy, which can be fatal. Pregnant women can also spread the infection to their baby while giving birth.
Chlamydia is spread by having anal, oral or vaginal sex with another person already infected with the disease. Sexually active individuals who are concerned about the possibility of being infected with chlamydia can lower the chances, by using condoms correctly each time they’re involved in sexual activity, and by being in a monogamous long-term relationship with a partner who has already tested negative for sexually transmitted infections.
Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of being infected with chlamydia, although young people tend to be at higher risk due to biological and behavioural factors that are common among this age group. Gay and bisexual men are also at particular risk due to chlamydia being spread via anal and oral sex. Some of the symptoms that can present themselves as a result of a chlamydia infection include pain in the lower belly, an odd vaginal discharge and a burning sensation during urination for women, while men can experience burning or pain during urination, soreness centred on the urethra and a yellow or whitish discharge from the penis itself.
The good news is that chlamydia can be cured by antibiotics, making it vital to undergo regular testing for the infection if you are sexually active, even if you suffer no symptoms.
A team from McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research has come up with the first vaccine that offers wide protection against the STD, which is estimated to affect as many as 113 million people all over the world each year. While chlamydia can already be cured, the infection can result in infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and upper genital tract infections if left untreated. The problem with chlamydia is that the great majority of people infected with it do not even know it, as they have no symptoms, causing many people to not receive the necessary treatment.
In a news release, David Bulir, PhD, says that over the course of the last three decades, attempts at producing a vaccine for the sexually transmitted infection have proven to be ineffective, meaning that there is currently no vaccine available on the market that has been approved for use by human beings. The researchers created a novel chlamydial antigen known as BD584, which has the possibility of becoming a vaccine for the most prevalent form of the sexually transmitted infection, referred to as chlamydia trachomatis. The study, which was published in the journal Vaccine, claims that the antigen was shown to be able to cut down on the symptoms of chlamydia trachomatis, including hydrosalpinx, which affects the fallopian tubes, by 87.5 percent, and chlamydial shedding by as much as 95 percent.
Bulir, who was the co-author of the study, says that a vaccine would be by far the best method to protect against a chlamydia infection, and that the study has resulted in the identification of a number of vital new antigens. These could be made use of as part of a new vaccine to eliminate or prevent the reproductive consequences of infections that are left untreated, which can be extremely damaging. The authors have confirmed that BD484 may actually be capable of protecting against all strains of the infection eventually.
Co-author Steven Liang, a McMaster University PhD student, says that the vaccine would be delivered easily and painlessly through the nose, making it a solution to the problem that is both inexpensive for developing countries, and simple to administer without the need for highly trained health professionals. The researchers are now intending to test out the possible vaccine in a variety of different formulations and strains.