At the 23rd IUSTI World Congress in September 2022 the first online portal on vaccine development for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) was launched. STI Watch, according to WHO, “contains technically sound and updated information” on common STIs and the status of a vaccine for each.
In a WHO statement on 5th September, it was reported that “global STI rates remain stubbornly high”. This is despite “decades” of worldwide collaboration against them. Efforts have included the promotion of “healthier sexual behaviours”, treatment of people with STI symptoms, and improved access to testing and treatment. However, “innovations are needed”.
“The development of safe and effective STI vaccines has the potential to revolutionise the approach to STI prevention.”
STI Watch is a collaborative effort between WHO, NIAID, and the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC). Key stakeholders have created a roadmap for STI vaccine development and introduction. This roadmap identifies “three key work-streams”:
- Make the case for STI vaccine investment
- Expedite research and development
- Optimise global benefits and access
According to WHO this roadmap will suggest next steps for accelerating STI vaccine development. These include:
- Assessing the public health need and value of new vaccines
- Defining their preferred product characteristics
- Outlining the pathway to developing, evaluating, and licensing the vaccines
The STI burden
WHO reports that most STIs go untreated, which means they are easily transmitted to others. This brings “severe health consequences” such as an increased risk of HIV, infertility, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and cancer. STI Watch indicates that an estimated 1 million new cases occur each day.
We currently have vaccines for 2 common STIs: human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV). In areas where these have been implemented, they have led to “significant decreases in cervical cancer and in acute and chronic hepatitis”.
Although research into vaccines against herpes simplex virus (HSV) is continuing, it is “not complete”. For gonorrhoea, WHO reports that vaccine development is “increasingly promising”. Furthermore, trials to investigate the effectivity of vaccines licensed against serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis (MenB) in preventing gonorrhoea are underway. WHO also states that a chlamydia vaccine candidate has “entered early clinical trials” and studies into vaccines against syphilis and trichomoniasis are in “earlier stages of development”.
To participate in discussions about next generation vaccines against a range of infections come to the World Vaccine Congress in Europe 2022.