A new way to prevent and treat one of the commonest sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has been developed by the researchers at the University of Manitoba and the University of Waterloo. This new method is more of a gene therapy than antibiotic therapy against the infection. The results of the study outlining the therapy were published in the latest issue of the journal Scientific Reports.
Chlamydia 3D illustration. Credit: Tatiana Shepeleva / Shutterstock
The study was titled, “Autophagy induction and PDGFR-β knockdown by siRNA-encapsulated nanoparticles reduce chlamydia trachomatis infection.”
For this new study researchers Sidi Yang, Yannick Traore, Celine Jimenez and Emmanuel A. Ho experimented with a gene therapy that is delivered with the help of nanotechnology. Results showed a 65 percent success rate in prevention of the infection after a single dose of the gene therapy. Emmanuel Ho, a professor at Waterloo's School of Pharmacy and lead researcher said, “As antibiotic resistance continues to develop, people may experience Chlamydia infections that cannot be treated through conventional means, which is causing increasing public health challenges. If left untreated or if treatment takes an extended period of time it can lead to infertility and other reproductive issues so finding new ways to treat this common infection is important.” He explained that the FDA has recently approved the first “siRNA-based drug” and this could soon be available for use.
For this approach the team targets Chlamydia infection by preventing the bacteria from entering the cells in the genital mucosa. The approach also kills bacteria that have managed to penetrate the cells. The team used a small interfering ribonucleic acid (siRNA) to target a gene called PDGFR-beta in the mucosa of the female genital tract. This gene is responsible for making a protein that eventually binds to the Chlamydia bacteria. Ho explained that if they targeted this gene they could stop the production of the protein that Chamydia can use when it enters the female genital tract. “As a result, an incoming infection has fewer targets to latch onto and infection is less likely to occur,” he said. The treatment takes a step further. The Chlamydia that already has entered the dells are killed by the process of autophagy. The infected skin cells form a coating or bubble around the bacteria and kill it.
The authors conclude in their study that this new method has been proven to be effective in the lab situations. Further studies can prove its efficacy in real life scenarios. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) shows that there is an increase in incidence of STIs such as Chlamydia, Syphilis and Gonorrhea and with rise of antibiotic resistance, treatment is becoming difficult. If this gene therapy is successful, new avenues in STI management could open up.