Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections transmitted from person to person through sexual contact. STIs can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Examples include gonorrhea, genital herpes, human papillomavirus infection, HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, and syphilis.
Why Is the Study of Sexually Transmitted Infections a Priority for NIAID?
STIs are an important global health priority because of their devastating impact on women and infants and their inter-relationships with HIV/AIDS. STIs and HIV are linked by biological interactions and because both infections occur in the same populations. Infection with certain STIs can increase the risk of getting and transmitting HIV as well as alter the way the HIV infection progresses. In addition, STIs can cause long-term health problems, particularly in women and infants. Some of the health complications that arise from STIs include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, tubal or ectopic pregnancy, cervical cancer, and perinatal or congenital infections in infants born to infected mothers.
How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?
The ultimate objective of NIAID-supported research is to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches to control STIs. To develop these strategies, basic research is necessary toward understanding the structure, function, growth, pathogenesis, and evolution of STI bacterial, viral, parasitic, protozoan, and fungal agents. Another important aspect of basic research is to examine the impact of STIs in various populations.
NIAID work in genomic sequencing further accelerates STI biological research and discovery. NIAID has collected genomic data on STI pathogens and made it available to qualified researchers through public databases. Recent advances include the genomic sequencing of pathogens responsible for trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and human genital ulcer disease (chancroid). The sequencing of genomes allows researchers to read and decipher genetic data that may aid in the development of novel diagnostics, topical medications, and vaccines.
To advance research to understand and address Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) infection, the NIH has established a strategic plan for research that combines the efforts of the research community with those in public health and clinical medicine to develop interventions to reduce the health consequences of HSV.