Medicine

First vaccine to show protection against gonorrhoea

First vaccine to show protection against gonorrhoea”

It's very much a case of "if" rather than "when" a gonorrhoea vaccine is developed.

The researchers also discovered that vaccinated people were significantly less likely to become infected with gonorrhea than people who had not received the vaccine: 41% vs. 51%.

There are fears gonorrhoea is becoming untreatable as antibiotics fail. Some strains of gonorrhea can now resist all known antibiotics, the Word Health Organization announced July 7.

"We are in desperate need for new therapies", Christine Johnston, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Washington in Seattle who was not involved in the study, told Science News.

Petousis-Harris and her colleagues looked later to see if gonorrhea rates had changed after that meningococcal vaccination campaign. It's the first time a vaccine has shown any protection against the sexually transmitted infection.

The research team studied over 14,000 people aged 15-30 who'd been diagnosed with gonorrhoea at sexual health clinics across New Zealand and who had been eligible for the MeNZB vaccine during the emergency vaccination programme.

Despite the fact that gonorrhea and meningitis are quite different from one another, the bacteria that cause Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis are actually related. While it must be stressed that further evidence is yet to be published (we have more to come), it's possible we have at least a partial solution to the escalating gonorrhoea problem in the form of group B meningococcal vaccines administered to adolescents.

Among all the participants, some received the MeNZB vaccine during the 2004-06 vaccination programme which was meant to protect them against meningitis B. This vaccine is no longer available today.

For example, given that both groups were sexually active, we don't know why the majority of people with gonorrhoea didn't also have a chlamydia infection, and how this may have affected the results.

The meningococcal group B vaccines include little "blebs" of bacterial membrane from the outside of the bacterial cell wall.

The single-component vaccine used by New Zealand is no longer made. "One of the observations was that gonorrhea rates appeared to decline immediately following the use of both the MeNZB vaccine and similar vaccines in Cuba, and to a lesser extent in Norway". That knowledge could help researchers design a more targeted gonorrhea vaccine.

The current meningitis B vaccine (Bexsero) is available in several countries and also targets the outer membrane vesicle, as well as three other antigens, the authors noted. "It is likely to collapse epidemiologically if even a small fraction of the population is effectively vaccinated, or if a large fraction gets a vaccine with relatively low efficacy".

The research was funded by GSK Vaccines, a pharmaceutical company, and Auckland UniServices, a branch of the university that partners academics with industry. Taking into account other factors - including ethnicity, deprivation, geographical area, and gender - the researchers concluded that having previously received the MeNZB vaccine reduced the incidence of gonorrhoea by approximately 31%. But a vaccine couldn't be evaded so easily.

Fellow researcher Prof Steven Black, from Cincinnati Children's Hospital in the U.S., said: "The potential ability of a group B meningococcal vaccine to provide even moderate protection against gonorrhoea would have substantial public health benefits".



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