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12 July 2017, 12:27 | Violet Powell
Meningitis B vaccines may fight the rise of super-gonorrhoea
Researchers in New Zealand report today in The Lancet that exposure to the outer-membrane vesical meningococcal B vaccine (MeNZB) was associated with reduced rates of gonorrhea in a retrospective case-control study.
Oral sex and a decline in condom use are reportedly behind the spread of the disease, which can infect the genitals, rectum and throat.
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. Not only is this the first time that a vaccine has shown any protection against gonorrhoea, and in real people - it will likely provide a new direction for gonorrhoea vaccine development.
"These results provide a proof of principle that can inform prospective vaccine development not only for gonorrhoea but also for meningococcal vaccines".
Although meningitis and gonorrhea are very different illnesses, there is an 80-90% genetic match between the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria and Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, meaning a cross-protection mechanism is plausible.
"Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug", said Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the Geneva-based United Nations health agency.
This is particularly important given rising rates of treatment-resistant gonorrhea.
The vaccine was developed about 10 years ago to fight meningitis B. Among those vaccinated, cases of gonorrhea dropped by 31 percent.
That vaccination information was combined with data on over 14,000 15- to 30-year-olds who had either gonorrhea, chlamydia or both in New Zealand between 2004 and 2016.
For the study, Petousis-Harris and colleagues reviewed information on about 1 million people who received the MeNZB vaccine in a mass immunization program.
Dr. Jean Longtin, head of the province's public health laboratory, said he and some colleagues chose to look at whether the vaccination campaign was having an impact on gonorrhea rates in that area after reading about an early observation from Norway.
Yet so far, efforts to develop a gonorrhea vaccine have yielded disappointing results: Four potential shots have reached the clinical trial stage, but none has been effective.
Moderate red white blood cells with gram negative diplococci intracellular Gram-negative coffee bean-shaped diplococci bacteria responsible for the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea. The data show that individuals who were vaccinated were significantly less likely to have gonorrhea.
If the vaccine had an effect against gonorrhea because it is an organism related to meningococcal disease, the researchers hypothesized, then no effect should be seen against chlamydia, an unrelated organism.
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.
Kramer said that if a vaccine against multiple strains of gonorrhea could be developed, it would be very beneficial. That exact vaccine is no longer in use, but similar vaccines exist, including Bexsero, which was used to treat a meningitis B outbreak at Princeton University in 2013. WHO is now strengthening laboratory and epidemiological surveillance systems in the countries of the African meningitis belt to detect and characterize the serogroups responsible for epidemics to guide its response effectively; assure supplies of effective drugs and ability of health care systems to deliver these to the affected populations; protect the population at risk through mass immunization, if the vaccine is available. However, for many people, the infection is asymptomatic and so they can pass on the infection as they have no idea they have it.
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