There are more than 376 million new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis among people aged 15-49 every year, according to figures recently released by the World Health Organization (WHO). That equates to over one million new cases of these sexually transmitted infections (STIs) every single day. It’s a reality, the WHO says, that should serve as a wake-up call – especially as such diseases can cause serious and chronic health effects like infertility, stillbirths, ectopic pregnancy, and increased risk of HIV. In 2016 alone, syphilis caused an estimated 200,000 stillbirths and newborn deaths globally. The figures show that one in 25 people, on average, has at least one of these STIs. However, many continue to live with multiple infections simultaneously. Sexually transmitted infections are predominantly spread through unprotected sexual contact, but chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth. The number one way to prevent STIs is to practise safe sex, which includes wearing a condom and having an understanding of sexual health education. People who are sexually active should also undergo regular STI screening to pick up any infections they might be carrying – sometimes completely obliviously. There is a wide variety of medications that can cure bacterial STIs. Speaking about the figures, Dr Peter Salama, Executive Director for Universal Health Coverage and the Life-Course at WHO, said: “This is a wake-up call for a concerted effort to ensure everyone, everywhere can access the services they need to prevent and treat these debilitating diseases.”
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the world and, at present, there is currently no approved vaccine for human use, and condoms are the best form of protection. However, promising new research from Canada published in the journal Vaccine shows that a chlamydia vaccine prototype administered to mice helped the animals fight off the infection. The team of researchers from McMaster University in Ontario gave the mice two doses of the experimental vaccine via their noses. The animals were then exposed to chlamydia bacteria and the researchers found that the vaccinated mice had fewer instances replicating in their systems. Furthermore, the vaccinated mice were found to be less likely to get damaged fallopian tubes as a result of being infected with the bacteria. Prof James Mahony, from the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at McMaster University, said the results were "very promising". "We will trial the vaccine on other animal models before moving on to human trials," he added. In 2015, there were more than 200,000 chlamydia diagnoses in the UK alone, and over half of those were in young people aged between 15 and 24. Chlamydia often doesn't cause any symptoms, so many people do not even know they have it. If left untreated, it can lead to significant long-term health problems, including infertility, which is why this new prototype vaccine is such an exciting breakthrough.