Meningitis vaccine may also cut risk of ‘untreatable’ gonorrhoea, study says

Bacteria causing two different illness belong to the same family and share much of the same genetic code unexpected cross protection

Hopes to opposed untreatable stress of gonorrhoea have risen after it emerged that a new inoculation against meningitis unexpectedly reduced health risks of people getting the sexually transmitted infection.

Some strains of gonorrhoea are resistant to all available medications, making vaccine developing an urgent global health priority. But according to a study in The Lancet, a inoculation has offered protection against the sexually transmitted disease for the first time.

Gonorrhoea spreads through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex and many of the individuals who contract the disease experience no symptoms. If left untreated, the disease can cause infertility and can increase the transmission of HIV infection.

A New Zealand meningitis outbreak in the early 2000 s inspired the mass vaccination of a million people and fortuitously defined the scene for the current study. The vaccine used, known as MeNZB, was designed to protect against meningococcal group B infection the cause of the most deadly form of meningitis.

But intriguingly, over the next few years, scientists noticed fewer gonorrhoea lawsuits than expected in those who had been vaccinated against meningitis.

Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccine specialist from the University of Auckland who led the study, was optimistic: Some types of gonorrhoea are now resistant to every antibiotic we have, and there seemed[ to be] little we could do to prevent the steady marching of gonorrhoea to superbug status. But now theres hope, she added.

The research team analyse over 14,000 people aged 15 -3 0 whod been diagnosed with gonorrhoea at sex health clinics across New Zealand and who had been eligible for the MeNZB vaccine during the emergency vaccination programme. They found vaccinated people were over 30% less likely to develop gonorrhoea.

Despite meningitis and gonorrhoea being very different maladies, both are caused by bacteria from the same family and share much of the same genetic code, a possible rationale for the cross-protection that the team observed.

More than 78 million people worldwide get gonorrhoea each year with most infections in men and women under the age of 25. It is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK after chlamydia. In England alone, almost 35,000 people were affected in 2014.

British Association for Sexual Health and HIVs President, Dr Elizabeth Carlin, who was not involved in the study, was more sceptical: These early findings are to be welcomed but its important is maintaining perspective that the inoculation offered only moderate protection …. an individual find this vaccine remains susceptible to gonorrhoea but only less so than if unvaccinated.

The MeNZB vaccine used in the current study is no longer fabricated, but Petousis-Harris has high hopes for a similar meningitis inoculation called 4CMenB, offered in many countries.

Petousis-Harris was clear about what needed to happen next. We need an urgent assessment of current meningitis inoculations to see if they protect against gonorrhoea. It may be possible to eliminate many gonorrhoea infections utilizing a vaccine with only moderate protection. It does not need to be perfect, she added.

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