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The First Gonorrhoea Vaccine May Be On The Horizon

The First Gonorrhoea Vaccine May Be On The Horizon

The new study describe the first vaccine candidate to ever show some kind of protection against the infection.

There are about 78 million new cases of gonorrhoea worldwide each year, and the rates of infection are increasing in New Zealand and elsewhere.

A vaccine targeting the specific strain of bacteria causing meningococcal disease in the New Zealand outbreak was eventually "developed in a collaboration between Chiron Vaccines, the National Institute of Public Health of Norway (NIPH) and the New Zealand government", according to Mary Anne Rhyne, director of corporate communications at GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company that inherited the vaccine from Chiron through a series of corporate acquisitions. "This is the first time a vaccine has shown any protection against gonorrhoea", lead author Helen Petousis-Harris from University of Auckland, New Zealand, said in a statement.

"These results provide a proof of principle that can inform prospective vaccine development not only for gonorrhoea but also for meningococcal vaccines".

The reason for this, they speculate, is because the bacteria that causes meningitis is a very close relative of the species that causes gonorrhoea, and the jab was giving cross-protection. After factoring for such things as ethnicity, gender or geographical area, the team concluded that the MeNZB vaccine reduced the incidence of gonorrhea by 31%.

"Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug", said Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the Geneva-based United Nations health agency.

In an environment of rising gonorrhoea rates and antibiotic resistance this is very good news.

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Back in the early 2000s, a huge epidemic of meningococcal B disease struck New Zealand, with very high disease rates, the team of researchers wrote, adding the government's request to the World Health Organization to help create a specific vaccine for it.

Observers had noted that gonorrhea incidence appeared to fall after the vaccination campaign, so Petousis-Harris' group made a decision to see if they could quantify the effect using a case control study of patients at sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics in New Zealand.

Coinfection with both gonorrhoea and chlamydia is relatively common in sexually active adults who don't use condoms. Attempts to make a gonorrhea vaccine have failed so far.

However, Petousis-Harris said it was most likely due to the fact the two bacteria that caused meningitis and gonorrhoea were semi-related "kissing-cousins". The research looked at data captured between 2004 and 2016, when drug-resistant gonorrhoea was less of a concern.

The researchers found that people who had been vaccinated with the MeNZB vaccine were less likely to have gonorrhea than those who weren't (41 percent versus 51 percent).

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

The study could be a game-changer against gonorrhoea. However, for many people, the infection is asymptomatic and so they can pass on the infection as they have no idea they have it. 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.

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