PhotoA study conducted at McMaster University may prove to be the first step towards effectively preventing chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affects more than 100 million people around the world.

Researchers at the university have produced the very first widely protective vaccine against the most common strain of the infection, called Chlamydia trachomatis. Those who have the infection are known to suffer from upper genital tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infertility. If proven to be effective, the vaccine could prevent all of these issues, in addition to Trachoma, an eye infection that is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world.

“Vaccination would be the best way to prevent a chlamydia infection, and this study has identified important new antigens which could be used as part of a vaccine to prevent or eliminate the damaging reproductive consequences of untreated infections,” said Dr. David Bulir, co-author of the study.

Improving vaccine efforts

The researchers began working towards a vaccine by studying a chlamydial antigen called BD584. They observed that this particular antigen worked amazingly well at counteracting C. trachomatis.

Under laboratory settings, they found that BD584 was able to prevent chlamydial shedding – a symptom of chlamydia -- 95% of the time. Additionally, it was able to prevent hydrosalpinx – another symptom which involves the fallopian tubes being blocked by fluids – 87.5% of the time.

These results could not have come at a better time, since the scientific community had struggled with vaccine efforts in recent years. “Vaccine development efforts in the past three decades have been unproductive and there is no vaccine approved for humans,” said Bulir.

Worldwide solution

In addition to preventing strains of C. trachomatis, the researchers say that their new vaccine could be integral to preventing trachoma – the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world. This is especially important for resource-poor nations that would otherwise have no answer to this health crisis.

“The vaccine would be administered through the nose. This is easy and painless and does not require trained health professionals to administer, and that makes it an inexpensive solution for developing nations,” said Steven Liang, co-author and PhD student at McMaster.

The researchers plan to keep working with their vaccine to see if its effectiveness can be extended to other strains of chlamydia.

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