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A potential Chlamydia vaccine could help reduce the rising number of cases in the U.S. Getty Images
  • Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs.
  • A new study finds a potential vaccine is effective in early testing.
  • Many chlamydia infections go undiagnosed and untreated, leading to complications.

There’s a new vaccine on the horizon that shows potential to effectively protect people against genital chlamydia.

This potential chlamydia vaccine is the first of its kind found to be safe and spark an immune response, according to a study published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

Considering that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have been at record highs in the United States in recent years, experts have been looking for a safe, effective vaccine that offers long-term protection against chlamydia.

Chlamydia is the most common STI reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And while the disease is curable with antibiotics, the vast majority of cases go undiagnosed and untreated — oftentimes causing severe and irreversible health complications.

Although more clinical testing is needed before a vaccine is ready to be administered, eventually this new vaccine could drastically decrease the striking number of chlamydia cases we see each year.

“Creating an effective vaccine for chlamydia will truly be a breakthrough in today’s modern medicine and will save millions of people from devastating effects of this disease,” Dr. Adi Davidov, an OB-GYN and the director of gynecology at the Staten Island University Hospital, told Healthline.

To measure the effectiveness of the vaccine, researchers studied 35 healthy women ages 19 to 45 at Hammersmith Hospital in London.

The women were split into three groups. The first two groups each received a slightly different form of the new vaccine, CTH522.

One formulation of the vaccine was designed to boost cellular immunity and another formulation was designed to help the body produce antibodies.

The first formulation — known as CTH522:CAF01 — had added CAF01 liposomes designed to boost cellular immunity. The other — CTH522:AH — had aluminum hydroxide to help produce antibodies.

The final group of women received a placebo.

The vaccination was given to the women five times in a shot in the muscle and in a nasal spray over a five-month period.

The researchers discovered that both vaccine formulations triggered an immune response in the participants, whereas the placebo didn’t have any effect.

However, one form of the vaccine, CTH522:CAF01, designed to boost cellular immunity, produced 5.6 times more antibodies, leading the researchers to believe this formulation shows more promise and should be studied further.

While those who received the vaccine did achieve an immune reaction, it’s still unclear whether or not the vaccine provides protective immunity.

“The 15 vaccinated women in the study did develop antibodies, but as far as the actual benefit and protection, more studies need to be done which would include some measurable exposure to the infection to determine the degree of protection,” said Dr. Mitchell Kramer, the chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital.

According to the CDC, there were over 1.7 million cases of chlamydia diagnosed in 2017. About half of them occurred among young women between the ages of 15 and 24.

While the infection occurs in both men and women, the health effects are much more severe in women, health experts say.

“Chlamydia infection in women can be particularly problematic due to its potential to cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which in turn, in addition to causing serious infection, can lead to infertility and increased risk of ectopic pregnancy,” Kramer said.

Chlamydia can also increase one’s chances of contracting another STI, such as gonorrhea and HIV. And in pregnant women, it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and preterm birth.

In men, it can cause genital and rectal pain along with a fever.

The disease is a tremendous health burden with a massive economic impact, Kramer noted.

A vaccine effectively protecting people against the infection could relieve the massive public health and economic stress it causes.

Whether or not the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will fast track the vaccine remains up in the air.

The developers first need to ensure the vaccine is safe and efficacious, Davidov explained.

This process could take years, as it’s the long-term data that will ultimately tell us just how effective the new vaccine is.

The first-ever chlamydia vaccine is showing promise in clinical trials.

While more research and testing is needed to understand the degree of protection the vaccine provides, it could soon help significantly lower the STI rates that have been soaring in recent years.

Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs out there, with 1.7 million U.S. cases diagnosed in 2017, and nearly 131 million diagnosed around the world each year.