A team of researchers from the University of Waterloo has recently developed a new treatment to prevent and treat ‘Chlamydia’, one of the world’s most common bacterial infections.
As the new treatment is based on gene therapy that is administered through nanotechnology, it completely differs from traditional antibiotic treatment, according to the researchers, a single dose shows a success rate of 65 percent in preventing chlamydia infection.
Professor Emmanuel Ho from Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy said that as antibiotic resistance develops continuously, individuals may suffer from chlamydia infections that cannot be treated with existing therapies, leading to rising public health challenges. If the patients is left untreated or if it takes longer period of time, it may cause infertility and several reproductive issues, thereby necessitating the discovery of new ways to treat such type of infection, Prof. Ho added.
The team is hopeful that the new research will be able to be widely available in the future as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. has approved the first small interfering ribonucleic acid (siRNA)-based drug for market.
Researchers at Ho’s labs developed the new treatment that targets chlamydia infection by blocking most bacteria from entering cells present in the genital tract and causing damage to any bacteria capable of penetrating a cell wall. This was achieved by employing a siRNA to address a particular gene in the female reproductive tract, known as PDGFR-beta, which produces a protein that binds the chlamydia bacteria.
By targeting this specific gene, the team was capable of preventing creation of the protein that the chlamydia bacteria rely on for entering the genital tract skin cells, according to Prof. Ho. As a result, an incoming infection has lesser number of targets to focus and it is quite unlikely to occur, he added.
If these bacteria are able to bind to cells and enter them, the new treatment is developed to initiate autophagy, a type of cellular processes enabling infected skin cells to create a bubble around the bacteria and destroy them.
siRNA cannot penetrate the skin cells on its own to reduce the expression of PDGFR-beta and prevent bacteria binding. Therefore, the recent gene therapy uses a special nanoparticle that allows siRNA to penetrate the cells, minimize bacteria’s ability to bind, destroy invasive bacteria, and to prevent the infection from spreading.
The new treatment is outlined in a research paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.