Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that about 2.86 million people get infected by chlamydia per year but there could be more because most of the people who get infected by this sexually transmitted infection (STI) do not exhibit symptoms and do not get tested.

Although the disease is relatively common and is treatable, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility, upper genital tract infections and trachoma, an eye infection that can cause blindness, if left untreated.

"Although medication will stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent damage done by the disease," the CDC said.

"Having multiple chlamydial infections increases a woman's risk of serious reproductive health complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancy."

Vaccination is one of the best ways to prevent infection, but efforts to develop such a vaccine have not been productive over the past three decades. No vaccine has yet been approved for human use.

Now, researchers appear to be on the road for the first widely protective vaccine against the sexually transmitted infection, a development that may prevent the damaging health consequences of untreated chlamydia.

In a research published in the journal Vaccine, David Bulir, from McMaster University, and colleagues, have shown that BD584, a novel chlamydial antigen, is a potential vaccine candidate that can be used against common species of chlamydia, which can help prevent health complication in individuals who are not aware that they have contracted it.

For their study, Bulir and colleagues found that BD584 can reduce symptoms of C. trachomatis such as chlamydial shedding by up to 95 percent. It was also able to reduce hydrosalpinx, which occurs when the fallopian tubes are blocked by serous fluids by more than 87.5 percent.

"Intranasal immunization with BD584 elicited serum neutralizing antibodies that inhibited C. trachomatis infection in vitro," the researchers wrote in their study, which will be published on July 25.

"[R]esults suggest that highly conserved proteins of the chlamydial T3SS may represent good candidates for a Chlamydia vaccine."

Bulir said that since the vaccine is administered through the nose, the process involved would be easy and painless. Administration of the vaccine does not also need highly trained health professionals, which would make the vaccine an inexpensive solution for fighting chlamydia particularly in developing nations.

The researchers said that they have plans to test BD584 against different strains of chlamydia. They would also conduct tests on different formulations with the objective of creating a vaccine that can be easily used in all medical environments.

Photo: Kat Masback | Flickr 

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