The fight against gonorrhea gets a potential new weapon: a vaccine

The fight against gonorrhea gets a potential new weapon: a vaccine

The fight against gonorrhea gets a potential new weapon: a vaccine

"Ultimately, vaccines against both extensively drug-resistant gonorrhea as well as chlamydia are likely to be the only sustainable solutions to control these infections", Petousis-Harris said in a statement.

The news comes from the results of a study in New Zealand that found people who'd been given an old version of the meningitis B vaccine were less likely to be diagnosed with gonorrhoea.

Oral sex and a decline in condom use are reportedly behind the spread of the disease, which can infect the genitals, rectum and throat.

There is growing fear by medical experts that antibiotics are eventually going to become redundant in the fight against super-strains of gonorrhea, and with 78 million people worldwide contracting it every year, we need to find an answer as a matter of urgency.

She and colleagues looked at data from the New Zealand national vaccine registry to see who received a meningococcal vaccine that was available from 2004 to 2008, called MeNZB.

The authors concluded that, "Exposure to [the] MeNZB [vaccine] was associated with reduced rates of gonorrhoea diagnosis - the first time a vaccine has shown any protection against gonorrhoea".

"These results provide a proof of principle that can inform prospective vaccine development not only for gonorrhoea but also for meningococcal vaccines".

Petousis-Harris said gonorrhoea had traditionally been quite treatable but had recently developed into a "superbug", with some strains now resistant to all available treatments.

"Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug", said Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the Geneva-based United Nations health agency.

"If gonorrhea goes untreated or is treated late, it can have a long-term health impact", he explained.

Back in the early 2000s, a huge epidemic of meningococcal B disease struck New Zealand, with very high disease rates, the team of researchers wrote, adding the government's request to the World Health Organization to help create a specific vaccine for it.

"After decades of research, only four gonococcal vaccine candidates have progressed to clinical trials, and none of these vaccines provided any protection against gonorrhea", Kate Seib from the Institute for Glycomics at Griffith University in Australia, who was not involved in the study, wrote in a commentary for The Lancet.

So far, efforts to develop a vaccine against gonorrhoea have been unsuccessful despite years of research.

"To our knowledge, ours is the first study to show an association between a vaccine and a reduction in the risk of gonorrhea", they stated.

As drug resistance spreads, doctors are diagnosing more and more cases that can not be treated by antibiotics, making it a major public health concern. It is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United Kingdom after chlamydia.

The bacteria that cause meningitis B and gonorrhea are closely related.

Based on the findings of their study, an assessment of the effect on gonorrhea of that vaccine "seems warranted", they said.

The 11 participating clinics had 15,067 individuals - 15,090 with chlamydia, 1,759 with gonorrhea, and 1,329 with both - over the study period from 2004 through 2014. These structures, known as Outer Membrane Vesicles (OMV), are purified from the bacteria and used as vaccine antigens. Many cases in the community could have been missed, and these people could have different immunisation trends.

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