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12 July 2017, 12:25 | Leigh Flowers
People who got the meningitis vaccine in New Zealand"were significantly less likely to have gonorrhoea than people who did not get the shotMore
Dr. Helen Petousis-Harris, lead author of the new study and a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, told CNN that "even moderate protection" against STIs like gonorrhea could have a significant impact because the bacteria "are very tricky".
Antimicrobial resistance has increased in recent years, and some strains of the infection are now resistant to drugs. "It is far from flawless, but it is a leap in the right direction", she said.
Despite a century of research, efforts to find a vaccine against gonorrhea, a fast-spreading disease that can lead to infertility, have been unsuccessful.
Even modest protection against gonorrhea would be of great public health interest, they noted, since antibiotic treatment of the disease is becoming increasingly hard.
About one million Kiwis - 81 per cent of the under-20 population - received the meningococcal B vaccine between 2004 and 2008, following a massive outbreak of meningitis.
Coinfection with both gonorrhoea and chlamydia is relatively common in sexually active adults who don't use condoms. The vaccine used, known as "MeNZB", was created to protect against meningococcal group B infection - the cause of the most deadly form of meningitis.
The researchers collected data from 11 sexual health clinics in New Zealand representing nearly 15,000 people and around 1000 cases of gonorrhoea.
That may explain why the B vaccine appears to offer some protection against Neisseria gonorrhea.
After adjusting for gender, ethnicity, geographical area and ethnicity, the incidence of gonorrhoea was reduced by about 30% among vaccinated individuals.
Gonorrhea is still treatable in the USA, said Bowen, though resistance to the current antibiotics may develop.
"Mathematical modeling has shown that even a vaccine of moderate efficacy and duration could have a substantial effect on the transmission and prevalence of gonorrhea, if coverage in the population is high and protection lasts during the highest risk period", Kate Seib, of Australia's Institute for Glycomics, wrote in a commentary that accompanied the study.
For the study, Petousis-Harris and colleagues reviewed information on about 1 million people who received the MeNZB vaccine in a mass immunization program. The data show that individuals who were vaccinated were significantly less likely to have gonorrhea.
"This paper is intriguing as a concept, but not as a reason to use this vaccine to protect people from gonorrhea", he said.
But so far, experimental vaccines have all failed. Research now needs to focus on whether the association still exists with the new jab.
Cases were defined as those with gonorrhea alone, while controls were those diagnosed with chlamydia alone.
With diseases such as chickenpox or measles or mumps and others, once you have had the infection, you are naturally immune to getting it again, which is why vaccines are successful in preventing disease, he explained.
Gonorrhea can infect the genitals, rectum and throat. That makes developing a vaccine problematic, Handsfield said.
The vaccine was reasonably effective against meningococcal disease, although it was administered late, when the epidemic had already begun to wane after raging for about 15 years. Though it does have many similar components, we don't know if these are useful in protecting against gonorrhoea.
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