UT Health San Antonio leading $11 million study of oral vaccine for chlamydia

Chlamydia is the nation's most commonly reported sexually transmitted disease.

click to enlarge UT Health San Antonio will lead a new, federally funded study of a potential chlamydia vaccine. - Courtesy Photo / UT Health San Antonio
Courtesy Photo / UT Health San Antonio
UT Health San Antonio will lead a new, federally funded study of a potential chlamydia vaccine.
Researchers at UT Health San Antonio will lead a five-year, $11 million study on a possible vaccine for the nation's most commonly reported sexually transmitted disease.

The grant from the National Institutes of Health will take a mutated version of the chlamydia STD to determine if it works as a vaccine against a disease that affects about 4 million people in the U.S. annually.

The possible vaccine came about when physician and researcher Dr. Guangming Zhong made an accidental discovery that genital chlamydia in mice had spread to the gastrointestinal tract and made a home there. Zhong is the principal investigator in the study and professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Zhong’s team then introduced an oral inoculation of chlamydia to the GI tract and found that it became non-pathogenic and gave protection against infection of genital area and airways. A mutant version of the infection, dubbed intrOv, that could no longer cause the disease.

While the results are promising, a possible vaccine for humans is still years away, according to UT Health officials. 

The new, U.S. government-funded study will determine if the oral inoculation will also provide immunity from chlamydia in pigs and non-human primates. If that holds up, the team will file an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take the vaccine to human clinical trials.

Because chlamydia doesn’t have specific symptoms it often goes untreated and can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancy.

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