First vaccine shows gonorrhoea protection

Meningitis B vaccine

Protective against gonorrhoea as well as meningitis B?DR P. Marazzi SPL

Gonorrhea's bacterial culprit, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, has developed resistance to many antibiotics, making treatment much more hard.

"We found that people with gonorrhoea were less likely to be vaccinated than people with chlamydia", indicating that the vaccine protected against gonorrhea but not chlamydia.

"Although the Auckland study is seen as breakthrough, there is still no gonorrhoea-specific vaccine in the horizon, " the study's lead author Helen Petousis-Harris said.

"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.

The last remaining drugs to cure this sexually transmitted infection are showing signs they may only have a few more years of usefulness left.

About one million Kiwis - 81 per cent of the under-20 population - received the meningococcal B vaccine between 2004 and 2008, following a massive outbreak of meningitis.

It is probable that production capacity of vaccines targeting the serogroup W135 will remain insufficient for the next epidemic seasons. Meningococcal vaccines that protect against the other strains do not seem to have the same effect.

Given the concerning situation with multi-drug resistant gonorrhea, a vaccine might play a critical role, Petousis-Harris said.

The news comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of the rise of totally untreatable "superbug" strains of gonorrhoea, which has been detected in at least three people worldwide.

That may not sound spectacular, but this is the first time a vaccine has had any impact on gonorrhoea.

The findings should "reinvigorate" gonorrhea vaccine research, commented Kate Seib, PhD, of Griffiths University in Gold Coast, Australia. It may be possible to eliminate many gonorrhoea infections using a vaccine with only moderate protection.

There are 78 million new gonorrhoea cases a year, due to the sexually-transmitted Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterial infection, reports the study.

Gonorrhoea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, which are closely related to Neisseria meningitidis, which cause meningitis B.

The researchers point out in their study that you might not be able to generalise their findings to everyone in New Zealand, since some folks with gonorrhoea don't go to sexual health clinics. Co-infection was assigned as either a control or a case.

Overall, the researchers found that 41 percent of those vaccinated became infected with gonorrhea, versus 51 percent of those who did not receive the vaccine. All were eligible to get the MeNZB vaccine.

They were able to link people diagnosed with gonorrhoea or chlamydia to their vaccine history through unique National Health Index numbers. The researchers also found a trend of decreasing vaccine effectiveness over time.

A randomised controlled trial would be needed to do this, where the vaccine is offered to some people and not others, but this would be unethical. The Global AMR Collaboration Hub will coordinate efforts to spur research into new antimicrobials, vaccines, alternative therapies, and diagnostic tools and encourage global involvement and investment. A different company, GlaxoSmithKline, has since bought Novartis' vaccine division.

Petousis-Harris disclosed relevant relationships with GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, and Pfizer.

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