Vaccines for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
What is a Sexually Transmitted Disease?
A sexually transmitted disease (or STD) is also referred to as sexually transmitted infection (or STI). An individual may get STD through sexual intercourse with a person who is infected. Some STDs are also transmitted through other, nonsexual ways. A person can reduce the risk of contracting STDs by avoiding sexual contact, by being completely sure that his or her partner is healthy, by using condoms during sexual intercourse, or by practicing the other, safer forms of sexual activity. There are cases when the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease can be further reduced through vaccines.
Which STDs can be prevented with the help of vaccines?
Some STDs are caused by bacteria. These diseases include Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and others. They are usually treated with antibiotics, but the diseases tend to increase their resistance to this kind of treatment over time and evolution.
Some viral STDs have vaccines that are currently in use, and for the others, there are vaccines currently in development.
Vaccines currently in use: HPV
Human papillomaviruses, or HPV, refer to a family of viruses, only a part of which is transmitted sexually. This article studies only HPV transmitted through sexual contact.
Sometimes, HPV infects a person’s body without any symptoms. However, there are certain types of HPV that may cause genital warts, and there are also those that are associated with cervical, anal, mouth, throat, and penile cancers.
- Who the vaccine is recommended to
Nearly half of new infections are diagnosed in women in the age range between 15 and 24. That’s why early vaccination is important, with experts recommending that young men and women be vaccinated.
Vaccination is conducted in three doses over the course of six months.
- Safety and effectiveness
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC assert that HPV vaccines are safe. The most common adverse effects include swelling, redness, and pain at the injection site. There are also cases of fainting, so it is recommended to wait about 15 minutes before leaving a medical office or clinic after you have been vaccinated.
Vaccines currently in use: Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and is transmitted through contact with infectious body fluids. One of the ways it can spread is through sexual intercourse.
Symptoms of hepatitis B include, among others, abdominal pain, fever, and jaundice. Up to 5% of infected adults become chronically infected and are at risk of contracting serious liver disease.
In the U.S., hepatitis B vaccination is a part of the standard childhood immunization schedule.
- Who the vaccine is recommended to
The following categories of adults are typically advised to get hepatitis B vaccination:
• Sex partners of individuals who have hepatitis B • Sexually active persons with multiple partners • People being treated for STD/STIs • Men who have sexual relations with men
Other categories recommended for the hepatitis B vaccine include:
• Children younger than 19 years of age who have not been vaccinated • Users of injecting drugs who use shared needles • Those living together with someone who has hepatitis B • Anyone who is in contact with blood at work • People with chronic liver disease or HIV • People in correctional facilities • Travelers to regions with a high prevalence of hepatitis B
The vaccine is given in three or four shots over the course of six months.
- Safety and effectiveness
The hepatitis B vaccine has proven to be safe. One possible adverse effect is soreness at the injection site. People who have received the vaccine have a 90% protection rate against hepatitis B.
Vaccines currently in development: Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is a kind of viral infection that is triggered by herpes simplex viruses. There are people who experience few or no symptoms despite being infected. However, many others get sores and blisters in the genital zone. The infection can stay in the body for an unlimited period of time, and the symptoms can return again and again.
Many experimental vaccines for herpes have been developed, though none of them are deemed effective enough to be licensed.
Recently, there have been several trials of some new herpes vaccine candidates. One of these trials was sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline and The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The tested vaccine seemed very promising. However, it failed to meet all positive expectations. Another trial has been sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur, and the potential vaccine is still in the pre-clinical study stage.
In general, researchers and medical experts admit that it would be of great use to have an effective herpes simplex vaccine. Therefore, experiments in this field go on.
Vaccines currently in development: HIV
The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is the agent that induces Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS.) HIV can spread through sexual contact and also by other forms of contact with contaminated body fluids.
When the virus gets into the human body, a person may experience moderate illness with fever. When these symptoms cease, the virus remains in a so-called “quiet mode”, slowly damaging the immune system. There are medications that can keep a person healthy for a long time, sometimes even indefinitely. If an HIV infection has progressed to AIDS, there are still treatments an individual can benefit from. Immune function can be substantially restored while the patient undergoes active treatment. Individuals with AIDS have great difficulty fighting other diseases, since their white blood cells that suppress diseases in the human body are substantially damaged.
HIV was isolated in 1983, and since that time, researchers have been working hard to develop an effective vaccine. However, progress has been slow. Just three HIV vaccines have undergone clinical trials so far. It is hard to create a vaccine for HIV for a number of reasons:
- HIV mutates much faster than most other viruses. It is a very challenging task to create a vaccine for a virus that is constantly changing.
- HIV deteriorates the immune system. However, the action of the vaccine is based on triggering the immune system to combat the disease agent. Thus, HIV vaccine researchers have to develop a kind of vaccine that interacts with the immune system in a way different from how the virus behaves.
To date, none of the potential HIV vaccines developed have been effective enough in clinical tests to be approved.
Two sexually transmitted diseases have efficient vaccines so far. The efforts to create vaccines for other viruses, such as herpes and HIV are ongoing, and have substantial potential to be successful in the future.
Research by Canadian Health&Care Mall Group - https://www.canadahealthcaremall.com