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Developing a Chlamydia Trachomatis vaccine

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New vaccine looks to eradicate Trachoma as a public health problem

Although the vaccine still needs to be tested in clinical trials, initial results show that it is possible for a vaccine to create an ocular immune response.

Health

Trachoma is an infection that, if left untreated, can cause blindness. Of the estimated 146 million active cases of Trachoma, the majority are among children and women living in poor areas. Caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, the infection is highly contagious and is typically spread through direct personal contact, shared towels and cloths, and flies. While Trachoma can be treated via surgery and antibiotics, many infected individuals lack access to such treatment. Instead, the global health community is turning towards prevention, which starts with hygiene and sanitation. “While such steps are important, what we really need to do is completely eliminate the disease,” says Jes Dietrich, a senior researcher in infectious disease immunology at Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut, part of the Danish Ministry of Health charged with preparedness for fighting infectious diseases. With the support of the EU-funded TracVac project, Dietrich is leading an effort to develop a vaccine against Trachoma. “The only way to truly control Trachoma in endemic areas and eradicate it as a public health problem is through vaccination,” adds Dietrich.

Generating immunity in the eye

The project’s first objective was to develop a protective vaccine against Trachoma. To do this, researchers studied naturally protected individuals from endemic regions to better understand how antibodies worked. This information was then incorporated into the vaccine constructs and tested in a non-human primate model for its ability to induce protective antibodies. Next, researchers developed an immunisation protocol for achieving optimal immunity in the eye. Once again using a non-human primate model, they tested the different vaccination constructs developed during the first phase. Finally, the most promising vaccine strategy was tested during a Phase I clinical trial. “Ultimately, we succeeded in developing a broadly neutralising Trachoma vaccine, and a vaccine strategy capable of generating immunity in the eye,” explains Dietrich.

Off to a good start

Although the trachoma vaccine still needs to be tested in clinical trials, these results show that it is indeed possible for a vaccine to create an ocular immune response – a finding that is very encouraging for vaccines against pathogens that infect the eye. “We now aim to apply for additional funding to continue the project, but the results from the TracVac project show that we are off to a good start,” notes Dietrich. Dietrich credits the project’s success to the close collaboration between experts in infectious diseases, clinical trials, vaccine research, and the use of animal models. “I am very proud of how all the partners worked together to deliver a crucial result that will have a major impact on global health,” concludes Dietrich. “This is a perfect example of how facilitating synergy across areas of expertise can result in extraordinary results.”

Keywords

TracVac, Trachoma, endemic, public health, vaccination, infection, blindness, global health, disease, infectious diseases, antibodies

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