The scientific community has long been seeking methods or treatments to prevent or fully block the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and a new study shows promise. A team of researchers hopes this could soon pave the way for clinics to offer a vaccine for diseases like HIV and herpes.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that a newly developed skin vaccination effectively works in blocking STIs. The researchers from King’s College London in England found that their vaccine protects the body by utilizing specialized immune cells, called CD8 T-cells.
To date, scientists struggle to develop vaccines for STIs, such as HIV or herpes simplex virus. It has been a challenge to control the CD8 T-cells to cover the part of the body where the virus first enters.
The cells require a quick method to provide an immediate protective immune defense. Scientists previous thought that vaccines should be delivered directly to the body surface, like female genital, where the infection commonly starts.
The idea was that the immune system generates the CD8 T-cells, which travel to the vaccination site and eliminate any future virus that it may encounter. However, tests showed that directly delivering vaccines to the female genital tissue appeared potentially harmful to the patient or not efficient.
The new study focused on this challenge and tried to find ways to apply vaccine safely. The researchers found that their skin vaccination strategy triggers the release of CD8 T-cells by controlling a “troop” of immune cells in the genital tissues, which then calls the CD8.
“This study highlights how specialised groups of ‘innate’ immune cells in distant tissues can be harnessed to attract protective CD8 T-cells, arming the body’s frontline tissues from infection,” Linda Klavinskis, Lead author of the study and a professor at King’s College London, said in a statement.
She noted further study is required to confirm the effectiveness of their vaccination strategy. Future efforts may try other types of vaccines.
“If proven, this could have a significant impact in improving the effectiveness of vaccines against sexually transmitted infections,” Klavinskis said.