MIMR researchers find a protein link to STI susceptibility

February 28, 2013

Melbourne, AUSTRALIA - Monash Institute of Medical Research scientists have found a protein in the female reproductive tract that protects against sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) such as chlamydia and herpes simplex virus (HSV).

It is estimated that 450 million people worldwide are newly infected with STIs each year. Chlamydia has the highest infection rate of all the STIs reported in Australia.

The research, published today in the prestigious journal, Science, was led by Prof Paul Hertzog, Director of MIMR's Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases, and his team including, Ka Yee Fung and Niamh Mangan.

The team discovered a protein, which they called Interferon epsilon (IFNe), and showed it plays an important role in protecting females against infections. It could have clinical potential to determine which women may be more or less susceptible to disease such as STIs or to boost protective immunity.

IFNe could also be used potentially to treat STIs or other inflammatory diseases.

"One way this protein is unusual is because of the way it's produced," Prof Hertzog said. "Most proteins protecting us against infection are produced only after we're exposed to a virus or bacteria.

"But this protein is produced normally and is instead regulated by hormones so its levels change during the oestrous cycle (an animal's menstrual cycle) and is switched off at implantation in pregnancy and at other times like menopause," Prof Hertzog said.

"Some of these times when normal IFNe is lowest, correlate with when women are most susceptible to STIs so this might be an important link to new therapeutic opportunities - IFNe follows different rules to normal immuno-modulatory proteins, and therefore this might also be important to vaccines and the way they're formulated to boost our protective immunity.

"Since this protein boosts female reproductive tract immune responses, it's likely, although we haven't addressed it directly, that this finding will be important for other infectious diseases like HIV and HPV and other diseases."

Prof Hertzog said STIs are a critical global health and socioeconomic problem.

According to the 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics, chlamydia has the highest infection rates of the notifiable STIs, and infection rates have more than tripled over the past decade. Men and women in the 15-19-year age group saw the largest increase in infection rates. According to these statistics, chlamydia affects more women than men, with 46,636 women aged over 15 diagnosed compared with 33,197 men aged 15 and over.

Prof Hertzog said the next step for this research would be to work towards clinical studies within the next five years. He is also keen to see whether this work can be applied across other diseases including cancer, female reproductive tract related disorders including endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease, as well as other non reproductive tract diseases.
-end-
This research was carried out in collaboration with partners at other departments of Monash University, the University of Newcastle, University of Adelaide, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the University of Oklahoma.For more information contact:

Caroline Page
MIMR Communications Manager
Mobile: +61 3 408 267 346
Email: caroline.page@monash.edu

Monash Institute of Medical Research

Related Infectious Diseases Articles from Brightsurf:

Understanding the spread of infectious diseases
Physicists at M√ľnster University (Germany) have shown in model simulations that the COVID-19 infection rates decrease significantly through social distancing.

Forecasting elections with a model of infectious diseases
Election forecasting is an innately challenging endeavor, with results that can be difficult to interpret and may leave many questions unanswered after close races unfold.

COVID-19 a reminder of the challenge of emerging infectious diseases
The emergence and rapid increase in cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus, pose complex challenges to the global public health, research and medical communities, write federal scientists from NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Certain antidepressants could provide treatment for multiple infectious diseases
Some antidepressants could potentially be used to treat a wide range of diseases caused by bacteria living within cells, according to work by researchers in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and collaborators at other institutions.

Opioid epidemic is increasing rates of some infectious diseases
The US faces a public health crisis as the opioid epidemic fuels growing rates of certain infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, heart infections, and skin and soft tissue infections.

Infectious diseases could be diagnosed with smartphones in sub-Saharan Africa
A new Imperial-led review has outlined how health workers could use existing phones to predict and curb the spread of infectious diseases.

The Lancet Infectious Diseases: Experts warn of a surge in vector-borne diseases as humanitarian crisis in Venezuela worsens
The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is accelerating the re-emergence of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, Chagas disease, dengue, and Zika virus, and threatens to jeopardize public health gains in the country over the past two decades, warn leading public health experts.

Glow-in-the-dark paper as a rapid test for infectious diseases
Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands) and Keio University (Japan) present a practicable and reliable way to test for infectious diseases.

Math shows how human behavior spreads infectious diseases
Mathematics can help public health workers better understand and influence human behaviors that lead to the spread of infectious disease, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

Many Americans say infectious and emerging diseases in other countries will threaten the US
An overwhelming majority of Americans (95%) think infectious and emerging diseases facing other countries will pose a 'major' or 'minor' threat to the U.S. in the next few years, but more than half (61%) say they are confident the federal government can prevent a major infectious disease outbreak in the US, according to a new national public opinion survey commissioned by Research!America and the American Society for Microbiology.

Read More: Infectious Diseases News and Infectious Diseases Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.