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Effectiveness of a group B outer membrane vesicle meningococcal vaccine against gonorrhea

12 July 2017

Finding the link between the two diseases was partly "a story of serendipity", says study coauthor Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccinologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

The sexually transmitted infection was previously proven to be resistant to medicine. "It does not need to be ideal", she added.

The vaccine was developed about 10 years ago to fight meningitis B. Among those vaccinated, cases of gonorrhea dropped by 31 percent.

Dr. Jean Longtin, head of the province's public health laboratory, said he and some colleagues chose to look at whether the vaccination campaign was having an impact on gonorrhea rates in that area after reading about an early observation from Norway.

The three-dose vaccine was introduced in 2004 in response to an epidemic strain of the meningococcal B bacterium, and New Zealand offered the vaccine free to anyone under the age of 20 between 2004 and 2006.

Petousis-Harris' group cautioned that the study population might differ from the general population in several respects.

It was not known exactly how the meningococcal vaccine worked on the sexually transmitted disease.

Study co-author Professor Steven Black, from Cincinnati Children's Hospital in the USA, added: "The potential ability of an OMV group B meningococcal vaccine to provide even moderate protection against gonorrhoea would have substantial public health benefits in view of the prevalence of gonorrhoea, and the increase in antibiotic resistance".

The researchers collected data from 11 sexual health clinics in New Zealand representing nearly 15,000 people and around 1000 cases of gonorrhoea. It may be possible to eliminate many gonorrhoea infections using a vaccine with only moderate protection. "The disease rate was very high, and it was affecting a lot of people", said study co-author Dr. Steve Black of Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

"The potential ability of an OMV group B meningococcal vaccine to provide even moderate protection against gonorrhoea would have substantial public health benefits in view of the prevalence of gonorrhoea, and the increase in antibiotic resistance".

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This case-control study looked at people with a gonorrhoea diagnosis and whether or not they'd had a meningitis vaccination in the past to see if there was an association.

Almost 15,000 people were included in the analysis.

Cases were defined as those with gonorrhea alone, while controls were those diagnosed with chlamydia alone.

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).

"This paper is intriguing as a concept, but not as a reason to use this vaccine to protect people from gonorrhea", he said. The data came from 11 clinics in New Zealand.

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

Kramer said that if a vaccine against multiple strains of gonorrhea could be developed, it would be very beneficial.

Infected patients may experience discharge or pain while urinating, but around 10% of men and nearly half of women do not suffer any symptoms. Though it does have many similar components, we don't know if these are useful in protecting against gonorrhoea.

Meningococcal disease is the bacterial type of meningitis and affects the membrane protecting the brain.

Effectiveness of a group B outer membrane vesicle meningococcal vaccine against gonorrhea