Vaccination to protect against infection of the female reproductive tract

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Expert Review of Clinical Immunology, 2012, 8 (1), pp. 81 - 94
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Infection of the female genital tract can result in serious morbidities and mortalities from reproductive disability, pelvic inflammatory disease and cancer, to impacts on the fetus, such as infant blindness. While therapeutic agents are available, frequent testing and treatment is required to prevent the occurrence of the severe disease sequelae. Hence, sexually transmitted infections remain a major public health burden with ongoing social and economic barriers to prevention and treatment. Unfortunately, while there are two success stories in the development of vaccines to protect against HPV infection of the female reproductive tract, many serious infectious agents impacting on the female reproductive tract still have no vaccines available. Vaccination to prevent infection of the female reproductive tract is an inherently difficult target, with many impacting factors, such as appropriate vaccination strategies/mechanisms to induce a suitable protective response locally in the genital tract, variation in the local immune responses due to the hormonal cycle, selection of vaccine antigen(s) that confers effective protection against multiple variants of a single pathogen (e.g., the different serovars of Chlamydia trachomatis) and timing of the vaccine administration prior to infection exposure. Despite these difficulties, there are numerous ongoing efforts to develop effective vaccines against these infectious agents and it is likely that this important human health field will see further major developments in the next 5 years.
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