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Experimental vaccine protects monkeys from blinding trachoma
Date:10/10/2011

An attenuated, or weakened, strain of Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria can be used as a vaccine to prevent or reduce the severity of trachoma, the world's leading cause of infectious blindness, suggest findings from a National Institutes of Health study in monkeys.

"This work is an important milestone in the development of a trachoma vaccine," noted Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at NIH. "If this approach demonstrates continued success, the implications could be enormous for the tens of millions of people affected by trachoma, a neglected disease of poverty primarily seen in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa."

In their study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine online, scientists from NIAID, led by Harlan Caldwell, Ph.D., describe how they tested their vaccine concept in a series of experiments. First they infected six cynomolgus macaques with the strain of C. trachomatis that they had weakened by removing a small piece of DNA. The scientists observed that the monkeys spontaneously cleared the infection within 14 days with no or minimal signs of ocular disease. The animals then were exposed twice more to the weakened strain at four- and eight-week intervals, but the animals still showed no signs of trachoma despite being infected.

According to Dr. Caldwell, this finding is particularly significant because repeated C. trachomatis infections typically lead to more severe eye disease in people. The infected animals did not develop eye disease, and they all mounted robust immune responses.

The same six macaques then were exposed to a highly virulent strain of C. trachomatis as were six other macaques in a control group that had not been vaccinated. Three of the macaques in the vaccine group showed no signs of infection or disease, and the three others showed greatly reduced infection compared with monkeys in the cont
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Contact: Ken Pekoc
kpekoc@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Source:Eurekalert

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