Published: Wed, July 12, 2017
Medical | By Garry George

The First Gonorrhea Vaccine May Be on The Horizon

The First Gonorrhea Vaccine May Be on The Horizon

Some strains of gonorrhoea are resistant to all available drugs, making vaccine development an urgent global health priority. With no new drugs on the near horizon, the disease is in desperate need of a vaccine.

Last week, the World Health Organization warned about the global spread of gonorrhoea that could not be treated with antibiotics. Gonorrhea can lead to bad effects like burning urination, pelvic inflammation, infertility and chronic pain, and can spread through the body. Four vaccine candidates have reached clinical trial stage but none have been effective.

For some reason, I have a gut feeling that a gonorrhea vaccine is something that even antivaxxers would have an interest in.

The importance of preventing people developing a gonorrhoea infection is of mounting importance as the infection is getting much harder to treat.

But no protective effect was found for chlamydia, which is often diagnosed at the same time as gonorrhoea. It really does prefer humans.

The vaccine used in New Zealand, dubbed MeNZB, was developed to control an epidemic of meningitis B in that country and was delivered in a mass campaign aimed at people younger age than 20 from mid-2004 through mid-2006.

It was not known exactly how the meningococcal vaccine worked on the sexually transmitted disease.

We thought that was the end of it. All were eligible to get the MeNZB vaccine.

British Association for Sexual Health and HIV's President, Dr Elizabeth Carlin, who was not involved in the study, was more sceptical: "These early findings are to be welcomed but it's important to keep in perspective that the vaccine offered only "moderate" individual receiving this vaccine remains susceptible to gonorrhoea but just less so than if unvaccinated". Black focused on New Zealand's gonorrhea statistics, as the bacteria causing gonorrhea and that causing meningococcal disease are considered "cousin" organisms and have 85 to 90 percent similar genetic composition.

The World Health Organisation just days ago issued a warning saying that cases of gonorrhoea are increasing and that it is now nearly impossible to treat.

The first vaccination shown to protect against the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea has been developed by scientists.

The researchers found 41% of the participants diagnosed with gonorrhoea only had been vaccinated against meningitis B, compared with 51% of the chlamydia-only group.

Any new treatment for gonorrhea will eventually spur the bacteria to develop resistance, says Teodora Wi, a medical officer at WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research in Geneva.

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

For the study, Petousis-Harris and colleagues reviewed information on about 1 million people who received the MeNZB vaccine in a mass immunization program.

OMVs include a range of immunogenic proteins. Such groups "are key to controlling gonorrhoea", says Fisman.

"Our findings provide experimental evidence and a proof of principle that an OMV meningococcal group B vaccine could offer moderate cross-protection against gonorrhoea".

"At the moment, the mechanism behind this immune response is unknown, but our findings could inform future vaccine development for both the meningococcal and gonorrhoea vaccines".

Gonorrhoea affects an estimated 78 million people each year.

It's worth noting our study likely underestimated the vaccine's effectiveness, and also while they need to be tested, the other aforementioned vaccines may be more effective than MeNZB.

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