Dr. Lance Liotta Laboratory via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Dr. Lance Liotta Laboratory via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A New Vaccine for Chlamydia Is in the Works

Dr. Lance Liotta Laboratory via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Dr. Lance Liotta Laboratory via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Creating a successful vaccine is exceedingly difficult, which makes it all the more remarkable that we have managed to develop so many of them, saving millions of lives. But one widespread disease has long eluded scientists' best efforts to stop it: chlamydia.  

Despite years of development, no vaccine successfully prevents Chlamydia trachomatis, the bacteria that is the leading cause of sexually transmitted infections around the globe. Worldwide, there are an estimated 106 million cases of the disease every yearLeft untreated, it can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pelvic pain, infant pneumonia, and more. C. trachomatis is also one of the leading causes of preventable blindness, and can be spread during childbirth and through sharing washcloths.

The infection can be cured fairly easily with antibiotics, but not everyone who has it presents symptoms, and once you’re treated, you can be re-infected. A vaccine could stop chlamydia—including related strains that infect animals—from ever spreading in the first place.

Now, scientists from Harvard University think they’ve figured out why chlamydia has been so hard to develop a vaccine for. As they report in the journal Science, immune response cells known as T cells are to blame. As a result of this insight, they're working on a new vaccine.

Dead chlamydia cells were used in the first efforts to develop a vaccine in the 1960s. What scientists didn't know then is that the white blood cells known as T cells were preventing the immune system from activating to fight the infection. So instead of protecting the body, the T cells became an anti-inflammatory agent that instead protected the infecting bacteria. Not only did these early vaccines not prevent chlamydia infections, they actually made subsequent chlamydia infections worse.

The testing of these vaccines in the 1960s on children in India, Saudi Arabia, and Ethiopia was largely a bust. Sometimes they worked, but were only effective for a single year. There was some evidence that a vaccine reduced eye scarring on kids with chlamydia eye infections. But scientists couldn't figure out why the vaccines exacerbated symptoms in some cases [PDF], and eventually the research petered out.

Now the Harvard team is developing a new vaccine that takes into account the T cells' behavior. This new vaccine utilizes an nanoparticle adjuvant—which is designed to increase the immune response in a patient—to help the body’s T cells recognize that chlamydia bacteria need to be fought off, not protected.

It’s also designed to be applied to the nasal cavity, because they found that the vaccine is better transmitted through mucus membranes—which are also most likely to be affected by chlamydia—than through the skin. So you may spray a chlamydia vaccine up your nose one day. 

The vaccine won’t be available for human testing for a few years, but trials in mice showed that a nasal spray elicited an immune response against chlamydia for up to six months. After the HPV vaccine (which has recently been tied to fewer precancerous cervical lesions) and vaccines for hepatitis A and B, a chlamydia vaccine would only be one of only a few inoculations available for sexually transmitted infections. Scientists are also working on a vaccine against HIV. Say it with me: shots, shots, shots, shots, shots! (Everybody should get them.)

[h/t: The Verge]

Recall Alert: Swiss Rolls And Bread Sold at Walmart and Food Lion Linked to Salmonella
Evan-Amos, Wikimedia Commons // CC 1.0

New items have been added to the list of foods being recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. According to Fox Carolina, snack cakes and bread products produced by Flowers Foods, Inc. have been pulled from stores in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The baked goods company, based in Georgia, has reason to believe the whey powder it buys from a third-party supplier is tainted with salmonella. The ingredient is added to its Swiss rolls, which are sold under various brands, as well as its Captain John Derst’s Old Fashioned Bread. Popular chains that normally sell Flowers Foods products include Walmart and Food Lion.

The U.S. is in the middle of a salmonella outbreak. In June, Kellogg's recalled Honey Smacks due to contamination and the CDC is still urging consumers to avoid the brand. The cereal has sickened dozens of people since early March. So far, there have been no reported illnesses connected to the potential Flower Foods contamination.

You can find the full list of recalled items below. If you have one of these products in your kitchen, throw it out immediately or return it to the store where you bought it to be reimbursed.

  • Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls
  • H-E-B Swiss Rolls
  • Food Lion Swiss Rolls
  • Baker's Treat Swiss Rolls
  • Market Square Swiss Rolls
  • Great Value Swiss Rolls
  • Captain John Derst's Old Fashioned Bread

[h/t Fox Carolina]

97 Percent of Us Are Washing Our Hands All Wrong

Most of us know the importance of washing our hands, but we're still pretty clueless when it comes to washing them the right way. As CNN reports, we fall short of washing our hands effectively 97 percent of the time.

That number comes from a new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that looked at 383 participants in a test-kitchen environment. When they were told to wash their hands, the vast majority of subjects walked away from the sink after less than 20 seconds—the minimum hand-washing time recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of them also failed to dry their hands with a clean towel.

The researchers had participants cooking and handling raw meats. Because they didn't wash their hands properly, volunteers were spreading potentially dangerous germs to spice jars 48 percent of the time, contaminating refrigerator handles 11 percent of the time, and doing the same to salads 5 percent of the time.

People who don't wash their hands the correct way risk spreading harmful microbes to everything they touch, making themselves and those they live with more susceptible to certain infections like gastrointestinal illness and respiratory infections. Luckily, the proper hand-washing protocol isn't that complicated: The biggest change most of us need to make is investing more time.

According to the CDC, you need to rub your hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds to get rid of harmful bacteria. A helpful trick is to sing "Happy Birthday" twice as you wash—once you're finished, you should have passed the 20-second mark. And if your bathroom or kitchen doesn't have a clean towel to dry your hands with, let them air-dry. 

[h/t CNN]


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