By Haruna Gimba
The first online portal on vaccine development for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) was launched at the 23rd IUSTI World Congress.
The portal, STI Watch contains technically sound and updated information on the most common STIs and the vaccine development status for each.
Despite decades of global efforts to control STIs, which have a major impact on sexual and reproductive health, by promoting healthier sexual behaviours, including increasing condom use, treating people with STI symptoms, and improving access to testing and treatment, global STI rates remain stubbornly high.
Innovations are needed in the fight against STIs. The development of safe and effective STI vaccines has the potential to revolutionize the approach to STI prevention.
STI Watch is a collaborative effort between WHO, US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC).
WHO and NIAID along with other key stakeholders have developed a roadmap for STI vaccine development and introduction.
The roadmap lays out next steps for accelerating STI vaccine development, including: assessing the public health need and value of new vaccines; defining their preferred product characteristics; and outlining the pathway to developing, evaluating and licensing the vaccines.
This collaboration was extended to AVAC to create a web-based clearinghouse for STI vaccines in order to raise their profile globally.
Most STIs go untreated, often because they cause no symptoms. If left untreated, STIs are easily transmitted to others, and can cause severe health consequences, including increased risk for HIV, infertility, adverse pregnancy outcomes and cancer.
Vaccines currently exist for only 2 common STIs – human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus. Where they have been implemented widely, these vaccines have led to significant decreases in cervical cancer and in acute and chronic hepatitis.
Currently, research to develop vaccines against herpes simplex virus (HSV) and HIV is advancing but not complete. Vaccine development for gonorrhoea has become increasingly promising.
Randomized controlled trials using licensed vaccines against a related pathogen, serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis (MenB), are underway to assess whether these vaccines also prevent gonorrhoea.
A vaccine candidate for chlamydia has entered early clinical trials, and research studies into vaccines for syphilis and trichomoniasis are in earlier stages of development.