A new vaccine that creates immunity against one of the world’s most common sexually transmitted infections, chlamydia, took its first step toward becoming widely available when the vaccine passed its first test in an early human trial, according to a paper published by the medical research journal Lancet.
In a randomized, controlled study of the new vaccine, developed by researchers in Britain and Denmark, involving 35 women, the vaccine produced the immunizing effect that the scientists had predicted, while at the same time producing no significant side effects in any of the women who took part in the study, according to a report on the human trial by CNN.
“The most important result is that we have seen protective antibodies against chlamydia in the genital tracts,” said Frank Follmann of Denmark’s Statens Serum Institute, and one of the authors of the Lancet paper, as quoted by CNN. “Our initial trials show them preventing the chlamydia bacteria from penetrating the cells of the body. This means that we have come a lot closer to a vaccine against chlamydia.”
Chlamydia is estimated to infect 131 million human beings worldwide every year. In the United States, with the exception of the human papilloma virus, or HPV, which causes genital warts, chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Symptoms of chlamydia can include pain or burning during urination, abnormal, odorous vaginal discharge in women and a clear or cloudy discharge from the penis in men. Burning and itching in the genital area and painful sex are also common symptoms of the bacterial infection.
Without a vaccine, condom use is currently the only reliable method of preventing the sexual transmission of chlamydia—though sexual penetration is not necessary for the chlamydia bacteria to pass from partner to partner. Any unprotected sexual contact may result in infection.
Once contracted, however, the disease can be treated with a week-long course of antibiotics, coupled with abstinence from sexual activity during that week. Though treatment is relatively easy, the antibiotics do not prevent later reinfection, which is common, and can lead to serious reproductive health issues in women.
The existence of a chlamydia vaccine could change all that by immunizing the recipient against the bacteria, but researchers warn that several more tests must be completed, and it could be several more years before the vaccine is ready for public use, according to a BBC report. The researchers say that they have already spent 15 years of research to reach the point of a clinical trial on humans.
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