Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable infectious ocular disease and the third most common cause of blindness after cataract and glaucoma, affecting an estimated 84 million people and leaving 590 million at risk. As a crippling disease, Trachoma causes an enormous loss of productivity and constitutes a major socioeconomic burden.
Although antibiotics are effective in treating active cases of the illness, they do not prevent re-infection, which occurs with high frequency in susceptible populations. Children build up a human reservoir for the spread of Chlamydia trachomatis and are the main cause for reinfection in adults, pre-dominantly the female caregivers, leaving women at risk for blinding three times more than men. Thus, an inexpensive and easy to deliver vaccine for trachoma would be highly effective in reducing the devastation caused by this disease.
The ambitious goal of developing a therapeutic as well as preventive vaccine against Chlamydia trachomatis requires an understanding of the complex immunological mechanisms that occur during infection, in particular by identifying those antigens that elicit a protective immune response. Recent advances in chlamydial genomics and proteomics has identified a number of protective antigens and epitopes that when appropriately delivered could be good candidates for an efficacious vaccine.
Trachoma patient after trichiasis surgery.
Cultured cells (red) infected with
Chlamydia trachomatis (green).