First vaccine protecting against gonorrhea provides opportunity for vaccine development

A meningococcal group B vaccine has been found to offer protection against gonorrhea, report researchers.

This is the first time a vaccine has protected against the STD and it could open up a new pathway for vaccine development.

Moderate red white blood cells with gram negative diplococci intracellular Gram-negative coffee bean-shaped diplococci bacteria responsible for the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea.

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.

Approximately 78 million cases of gonorrhoea are diagnosed globally every year and many strains of N. gonorrhoeae have become resistant to available treatments. Previous efforts to develop a vaccine have been unsuccessful, but population data has recently shown that use of the outer membrane vesicle (OMV) meningococcal group B vaccine in Cuba, New Zealand, and Norway is associated with a decline in gonorrhea.

In 2004-2006, 1 million people received the MeNZB (an OMV meningococcal group B vaccine) as part of an emergency mass immunisation programme, which provided an opportunity to test the cross-protection theory.

As reported in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Helen Petousis-Harris (University of Auckland) and colleagues looked at data for people aged 15 to 30 who had been diagnosed with gonorrhea at 11 sexual health clinics in New Zealand and who had been eligible for the vaccine during the emergency programme.

After adjusting for gender, ethnicity, geographical area and ethnicity, the incidence of gonorrhoea was reduced by about 30% among vaccinated individuals.

MeNZB was developed specifically in response to a meningitis outbreak in New Zealand in the early 2000s and is no longer available, but the OMV antigens that are thought to provoke the immunity to gonorrhoea are included in the more recent 4CMenB vaccine. This vaccine is available in many countries including the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia.

Co-author Steven Black (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, US) says: “If the 4CMenB vaccine, which is currently available in many countries, is shown to have a similar effect to the MeNZB vaccine, then administering it in adolescent immunisation programmes could result in declines in gonorrhoea.”

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