Vaccine shows protection against gonorrhea for first time, study says

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That's welcome news, because gonorrhea appears to be eluding treatment efforts to control the disease.

The development of a gonorrhoea vaccine given to teenagers could become an urgent priority after the World Health Organization said it was "only a matter of time" before last-resort gonorrhoea antibiotics would be of no use.

The finding suggests that the outer membrane vesicle (OMV) vaccine against meningitis B might provide a guide toward the first vaccine that would prevent Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection, Petousis-Harris and colleagues wrote in the Lancet Infectious Diseases.

"We are still a long way before we develop a vaccine for gonorrhoea, but we have now some evidence that it is possible". "It is far from flawless, but it is a leap in the right direction", she said.

Although the Auckland study is seen as a breakthrough, there is still no gonorrhea-specific vaccine on the horizon, the study's lead author Helen Petousis-Harris told dpa.

Meningitis B is caused by Neisseria meningitides, a bacteria similar to the one that causes gonorrhoea, so experts thought the MeNZB vaccine may be able to protect against both. "About one-third of those vaccinated were protected", Petousis-Harris said.

Taking into account all other factors such as ethnicity and geographical area, the researchers concluded that having previously received the MeNZB vaccine reduced the incidence of gonorrhoea by approximately 31%. 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.

Petousis-Harris was clear about what needed to happen next.

Dr. Mitchell Kramer is chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y.

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

It is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United Kingdom after chlamydia, with the majority of cases affecting people under the age of 25.

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

While current preventions strategies do need to be boosted, finding a vaccine for gonorrhoea is also a major public health priority.

"Given the emergence of drug resistance, a vaccine may be our only avenue", she said. "This finding can inform further research on gonorrhea vaccine development; it provides a pointer in what may be the right direction".

The study looked at more than 14,000 people: some who received the vaccine, and some unvaccinated people who acted as controls.

The retrospective case-control study involved individuals at sexual health clinics aged 15-30 years who were eligible to receive the MeNZB vaccine during a 2004-06 mass immunization campaign and were diagnosed with gonorrhea, chlamydia, or both. The difference led to an adjusted odds ratio of 0.69 (95% CI 0.61-0.79), which was statistically significant.

New Zealand had a very bad meningococcal outbreak in the early 2000s caused by the B strain.

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