Development of novel vaccine strategies to prevent genital tract chlamydial infections

Carey, Alison Jane (2010) Development of novel vaccine strategies to prevent genital tract chlamydial infections. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Chlamydia trachomatis is the most prevalent bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the developed world and the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. As reported by the World Health Organization in 2001, there are approximately 92 million new infections detected annually, costing health systems billions of dollars to treat not only the acute infection, but also to treat infection-associated sequelae. The majority of genital infections are asymptomatic, with 50-70% going undetected. Genital tract infections can be easily treated with antibiotics when detected. Lack of treatment can lead to the development of pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancies and tubal factor infertility in women and epididymitis and prostatitis in men. With infection rates on the continual rise and the large number of infections going undetected, there is a need to develop an efficacious vaccine which prevents not only infection, but also the development of infection-associated pathology.

Before a vaccine can be developed and administered, the pathogenesis of chlamydial infections needs to be fully understood. This includes the kinetics of ascending infection and the effects of inoculating dose on ascension and development of pathology. The first aim in this study was to examine these factors in a murine model. Female BALB/c mice were infected intravaginally with varying doses of C. muridarum, the mouse variant of human C. trachomatis, and the ascension of infection along the reproductive tract and the time-course of infection-associated pathology development, including inflammatory cell infiltration, pyosalpinx and hydrosalpinx, were determined. It was found that while the inoculating dose did affect the rate and degree of infection, it did not affect any of the pathological parameters examined. This highlighted that the sexual transmission dose may have minimal effect on the development of reproductive sequelae.

The results of the first section enabled further studies presented here to use an optimal inoculating dose that would ascend the reproductive tract and cause pathology development, so that vaccine efficacy could be determined. There has been a large amount of research into the development of an efficacious vaccine against genital tract chlamydial infections, with little success. However, there have been no studies examining the effects of the timing of vaccination, including the effects of vaccination during an active genital infection, or after clearance of a previous infection. These are important factors that need to be examined, as it is not yet known whether immunization will enhance not only the individual's immune response, but also pathology development. It is also unknown whether any enhancement of the immune responses will cause the Chlamydia to enter a dormant, persistent state, and possibly further enhance any pathology development.

The second section of this study aimed to determine if vaccination during an active genital tract infection, or after clearance of a primary infection, enhanced the murine immune responses and whether any enhanced or reduced pathology occurred. Naïve, actively infected, or previously infected animals were immunized intranasally or transcutaneously with the adjuvants cholera toxin and CpG-ODN in combination with either the major outer membrane protein (MOMP) of C. muridarum, or MOMP and ribonucleotide reductase small chain protein (NrdB) of C. muridarum. It was found that the systemic immune responses in actively or previously infected mice were altered in comparison to animals immunized naïve with the same combinations, however mucosal antibodies were not enhanced. It was also found that there was no difference in pathology development between any of the groups. This suggests that immunization of individuals who may have an asymptomatic infection, or may have been previously exposed to a genital infection, may not benefit from vaccination in terms of enhanced immune responses against re-exposure.

The final section of this study aimed to determine if the vaccination regimes mentioned above caused in vivo persistence of C. muridarum in the upper reproductive tracts of mice. As there has been no characterization of C. muridarum persistence in vitro, either ultrastructurally or via transcriptome analysis, this was the first aim of this section. Once it had been shown that C. muridarum could be induced into a persistent state, the gene transcriptional profiles of the selected persistent marker genes were used to determine if persistent infections were indeed present in the upper reproductive tracts of the mice. We found that intranasal immunization during an active infection induced persistent infections in the oviducts, but not the uterine horns, and that intranasal immunization after clearance of infection, caused persistent infections in both the uterine horns and the oviducts of the mice. This is a significant finding, not only because it is the first time that C. muridarum persistence has been characterized in vitro, but also due to the fact that there is minimal characterization of in vivo persistence of any chlamydial species. It is possible that the induction of persistent infections in the reproductive tract might enhance the development of pathology and thereby enhance the risk of infertility, factors that need to be prevented by vaccination, not enhanced.

Overall, this study has shown that the inoculating dose does not affect pathology development in the female reproductive tract of infected mice, but does alter the degree and rate of ascending infection. It has also been shown that intranasal immunization during an active genital infection, or after clearance of one, induces persistent infections in the uterine horns and oviducts of mice. This suggests that potential vaccine candidates will need to have these factors closely examined before progressing to clinical trials. This is significant, because if the same situation occurs in humans, a vaccine administered to an asymptomatic, or previously exposed individual may not afford any extra protection and may in fact enhance the risk of development of infection-associated sequelae. This suggests that a vaccine may serve the community better if administered before the commencement of sexual activity.

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ID Code: 48734
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Beagley, Kenneth
Keywords: Chlamydia trachomatis, Chlamydia muridarum, female genital tract, ascending infection, inflammation, hydrosalpinx, vaccine development, timing of vaccination, persistent infection
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 16 Feb 2012 06:59
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2014 06:11

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