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Contraception Pill Linked to Chlamydia Risk

Update Date: Mar 01, 2013 01:59 PM EST

A popular mini pill used by women in Australia has been linked to increasing the risks for chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection in women. The mini pill contains only the progesterone hormones, which appears to interact with a certain protein found in the women's body. This interaction lowers the body's natural immune response to infection and thus, it increases the chances for chlamydia. The study was published in Science.

The head author of the study, Professor Paul Hertzog and his team discovered a new protein that did not act in the same ways as other proteins, known as cytokines. The protein was discovered eight years ago but it was not until more recently that the team understood its function and influence on the women's body. The body produces cytokines naturally after an infection attacks the body. The specific cytokine that the team discovered is called interferon epsilon and it is released by the body as a measure to protect the immune system. Based from animal trials, the team found that the epsilon is highly successful in protecting the body from chlamydia and the herpes simplex virus. Hertzog is a part of the Monash Institute of Medical Research.

Interferon epsilon is so unique in that it can only be produced by the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. When both levels of hormones are high in the body, the production of epsilon decreases significantly which jeopardizes the women's body in protecting against infections. When women are taking this mini pill, their bodies receive high levels of progesterone.  The extra amounts of progesterone in combination with the high levels of oestrogen in the body cancel out the effects of the epsilon.

This finding will hopefully help researchers develop a new contraceptive pill that contains epsilon and progesterone so that the body does not have to worry about the lowered amounts of the fighting protein. The discovery of the protein will also help scientists in developing possible boosters against chlamydia. However, there are contraceptive pills that contain both hormones and do not pose a threat for contracting chlamydia. So far, it is only the mini pill that appears to pose a threat for women's bodies.

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