HAMILTON, Ontario, July 19 (UPI) -- Chlamydia is a relatively common, treatable sexually transmitted infection, but because it often carries no symptoms, the potential for reproductive issues and blindness mean preventing its acquisition is good idea.
Researchers have identified an antigen with the potential to act as a vaccine against the STI, which could prevent health complications in people who have no idea they've contracted it, according to a new study conducted at McMaster University.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 2.86 million people infections occur annually but suggest there are many more than that because most people are asymptomatic and do not get tested.
In addition to untreated cases carrying the potential for upper genital tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility, it also causes the eye infection trachoma -- the leading cause of preventable blindness in many parts of the world.
"Vaccination would be the best way to 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," Dr. David Bulir, a researcher at McMaster, said in a press release.
For the study, published in the journal Vaccine, researchers tested a fusion protein antigen called BD584 to prevent it from infecting mice.
The antigen reduced chlamydial shedding in mice by 95 percent, clearing infection in the rodents, and reduced hydrosalpinx, a blocking of the fallopian tubes caused by infection, by 87.5 percent, when compared to mice not receiving the vaccine.
The researchers said they plan to test BD584 against different strains of chlamydia, as well as different formulations of the vaccine, with the hope of creating an vaccine that can be used easily in all medical environments.
"The vaccine would be administered through the nose," Bulir said. "This is easy and painless and does not require highly trained health professionals to administer, and that makes it an inexpensive solution for developing nations."