A New Vaccination Method Against Sexually Transmitted Infections Shows Promise

Researchers from King’s College, London have demonstrated how skin vaccination may generate protective CD8 T-cells. These cells are recruited to genital tissues and can be used as a vaccination technique for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The study was published in the Nature Communications.


Case study

Understanding a way to attract specialized immune cells, CD8 T-cells, to inhibit part of the body where the virus enters first is a challenge in the development of vaccines for STIs like HIV and herpes simplex virus. The cells need to be in place and ready to provide immediate protective immune defense. This is as opposed to waiting for the immune cells in the blood to enter the tissues since it takes time. However, it is not patient friendly or efficient to deliver vaccines to the female genital tissue directly.

The researchers discovered that their vaccination strategy marshals a group of immune cells, known as monocytes and innate lymphoid cells (ILC1), in the genital tissues. They work together, releasing chemokines to send calls to the CD8 T-cells generated by the vaccine to enter the genital tissue.

This research is build on the basis of the team’s earlier work to come up with skin vaccination techniques. They did so by the use of a dissolvable ‘microneedle’ vaccine path which once placed against the skin dissolves, releasing the vaccine without needing a hypodermic needle injection. It also generates immune responses.

According to Professor Linda Klavinskis, the lead author, this study showed how groups of specialized ‘innate’ immune cells in distant tissues may be used in attracting protective CD8 T-cells and arming the frontline tissues of the body from infection.


Klavinskis says that they now need to confirm the results with other kinds of vaccines from that used in the study. This is so as to see if there is a common pathway triggered by skin vaccination. In case it is proven, it could significantly impact the effectiveness of vaccines against sexually transmitted infections. Until then be safe and get tested periodically if you are sexually active.

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