Researchers in Australia say they've discovered a protein in the female reproductive tract that may help prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
Scientists from the Monash Institute of Medical Research say the protein is called interferon epsilon, or IFNe. Apparently, it is produced naturally and is regulated by hormones.
"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," said lead researcher professor Paul Hertzog. "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."
The research team says the finding could help determine which women may be more or less susceptible to disease such as chlamydia, or to boost protective immunity. It could also have implications in the fight against other infectious diseases like HIV and HPV.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are nearly 20 million new cases of STDs each year in the U.S. Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are particularly affected, accounting for half of all new infections.
It's important to be tested and treated for STDs, as some have the potential to cause serious health problems, including infertility.