The Week That Wasn't: Vaginal Steaming, Chlamydia Vaccine, Cat Allergies

Ellie Kincaid


August 16, 2019

Elsewhere on the Internet this week, you may have seen news stories about a new vaccine for chlamydia, a woman who tried to treat her vaginal prolapse with steam (yes, steam), and an experimental shot for cats meant to make them less allergenic. Here's why you didn't see them on Medscape Medical News.

Chlamydia Vaccine in Progress

A study published Monday in the Lancet Infectious Diseases describes the first-in-human trial of an experimental chlamydia vaccine. The trial was randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled — all good things. It involved 35 women who received either multiple doses of different formulations of the vaccine or a placebo shot. The study authors report that none of the women experienced serious adverse reactions, though all who received the vaccine had mild reactions at the injection site. All the women who were given a version of the vaccine also showed the immune response the researchers were looking for as a secondary outcome.

Exciting as it is to see the first human test of a new vaccine, especially for a common sexually transmitted infection, it's hard to conclude much from a phase 1 study. It's encouraging that none of the women in the trial had a serious adverse reaction, but treating a few dozen people is not enough to conclude that the treatment is safe, and the trial didn't test whether the vaccine could prevent a chlamydia infection from taking hold. All we can really know right now is that the researchers consider it promising to move forward in the process of developing the vaccine. A lot needs to happen — and a lot could go wrong — before the vaccine makes it to market and becomes relevant for patients and healthcare professionals.

Burn From Vaginal Steaming

A 62-year-old woman in Canada with vaginal prolapse tried to treat her condition by steaming her vagina but ended up with second-degree burns, as described in a case report in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. "Clinicians need to be aware of alternative treatments available to women so that counselling may mitigate any potential harm," author Magali Robert, MD, of the University of Calgary, wrote.

Unfortunately, vaginal prolapse is not the only reason women have been told to steam their vaginas. In 2015, OB/GYN Jen Gunter, MD, blogged about why women should not follow Gwyneth Paltrow's advice to do so for "an energetic release...that balances female hormone levels." Readers of Medscape Medical News hardly need to be told that vaginal steaming, whatever the goal, is bunk and could be harmful. We didn't want to give this any more air.

A Shot for Cat Allergies

A Swiss company called HypoPet came out with what they call "important preclinical data" on their experimental vaccine for cat allergy. Just to be clear, the vaccine is meant to be given to cats, not humans, to make the cats give off fewer of the allergens that bother people. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology describes the company's experiment to induce cats to produce an antibody against an allergen secreted by the feline salivary, skin, lacrimal, and perianal glands. The vaccine appears to have reduced the amount of the allergen in the cats' tears.

While it's good to see a company publish work in a scientific journal, and a solution for the suffering of those allergic to their cats would be nothing to, uh, sneeze at, this study did not demonstrate that vaccinating cats had any effect on humans who came into contact with them. That's a crucial piece of information to have before we'll cover a vaccine for cat allergy.

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