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First-ever chlamydia vaccine trial offers hope of treating infection 'epidemic'

An early stage clinical trial proved successful but a vaccine will not be on the market anytime soon.

SCIENTISTS HAVE MOVED one step closer to better treatments for chlamydia after a clinical trial found that patients reacted well to a newly developed vaccine. 

According to a study published in The Lancet journal, the first-ever clinical trial of a chlamydia vaccine found that it was safe and provoked the hoped-for immune system response. 

With over 131 million people infected by chlamydia every year, the disease is a major global problem – the highest number of new cases are found in teenagers and young adults. 

One of the major dangers of chlamydia is that it often fails to produce symptoms.

Hopes have turned to vaccinations as a way to combat the disease, which some say is reaching epidemic proportions and which national treatment programmes – including testing and antibiotics – have largely failed to curb. 

Previous studies have suggested that people infected with chlamydia develop either partial or temporary natural immunity to the disease. 

However, this research – carried out by scientists in Imperial College London and the Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen – marks the first time a vaccine has reached a clinical trial. 

In the trial of 35 women, two formulations of the vaccine were trialled. While both performed well, the researchers advise focusing on only one for more clinical trials. 

“A global unmet medical need exists for a vaccine against genital chlamydia,” said Prof Peter Andersen of the Statens Serum Institut, who called the extent of the disease an “epidemic”. 

One in six women suffer from inflammation of the pelvis as a result of the disease, which can result in chronic pain, infertility or ectopic pregnancy. It can also increase people’s susceptibility to other sexually transmitted infections, particularly gonorrhoea and HIV. 

“Although many more years of research are needed before this vaccine is marketed, we are planning the next stage of research,” said Helene B Juel of the Statens Serum Institut. 

Latest figures show that there was a 7% increase in sexually transmitted infections between 2017 and 2018 in Ireland, with nearly 8,000 diagnosed cases of chlamydia.

While overall men made up a higher number of cases, for chlamydia men and women were equally likely to be infected. 

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