Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and although it adversely impacts men, it can be treacherous for infected women trying to get pregnant, possibly causing infertility and danger to infants.
Now, promising research is revealing that if the infection hits first in the GI tract, it might act as a source of prevention.
Texas researchers searching for a vaccine against the STD chlamydia, made a huge unexpected discovery in a disease that so often goes undiagnosed by the people who are infected.
One patient who was previously infected with chlamydia said, “When I was with my new partner, he had noticed some I think just some changes in my genital area.”
Her chlamydia was easily cured with antibiotics, but this new research aims to prevent it. Human exposure to the STD can happen through genital or oral sex with an infected partner. Using mice in a controlled setting, scientists studied chlamydia transmission and discovered where the bacteria develops in the body makes a difference.
Guangming Zhong, MD, PhD, a Biomedical Researcher from UT Health San Antonio said, “We have strong evidence showing that if you expose the chlamydia in the gut first, you essentially have vaccination against subsequent chlamydia exposure.”
But researchers say if the genital tract is exposed to chlamydia first, the disease develops, and can be harmful. Dr. Zhong says researchers are exploring the idea of someday delivering chlamydia bacteria as an oral vaccine. Meaning this STD with hidden dangers, shame and a serious stigma, might someday be eliminated and spare others the uncomfortable conversation that follows the diagnosis.
The patient shared, “The really impactful part was telling the last partner, being we were no longer together, and we didn’t have that trust. We didn’t have that caring for one another. It’s an important part of STDs, is telling the last partner you were with, so it doesn’t continue to just spread.”
The University of Texas researchers say tests in human subjects are a critical next step. The scientists say you can think of the orally ingested chlamydia bacteria in much the same way as many people think of probiotics to improve gut health.
Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Field Producer; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.