Researchers who have been studying a meningitis vaccination campaign have found out that the vaccine is also offering moderate defence against the STD gonorrhea. This comes at a time when gonorrhea new infection rates are at an all time alarming rate.
Just recently, World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that there was a rise in the untreatable strains of gonorrhoea raising panic worldwide.
Gonorrhea Vaccines have Failed So Far
The new findings that were published in The Lancet medical journal give hope of treating these new stubborn strains that won’t respond to antibiotics. It also gives researchers a chance for further research for a gonorrhea vaccine. Four potential vaccines have so far gone up to the clinical trial stage but have all failed. So this is quite good news to Meningitis experts who are working hard to find a vaccine.
The meningitis immunization program was conducted between 2004-2006 in New Zealand. About 1 million people all below 20 years of age got a shot of MeNZB, a meningitis vaccine. Scientist then took the opportunity to test for cross-protection among those who receive the vaccine.
The research was conducted using patient data from 11 sexual health clinics. These patients were all aged 15 to 30. Had been diagnosed with either chlamydia, gonorrhea or both. They were also eligible for the 2004-2006 meningitis immunization campaign.
From the data received from the 11 clinics, the researchers analysed 14 730 cases and controls. Out of these cases 1241 of them were cases of gonorrhoea while 12 487 were incidences of chlamydia. 1002 were cases of co-infection.
Gonorrhea Risk Reduced by 31%
Only 41% of the gonorrhea cases were from vaccinated individuals compared to 51% of those who had not been vaccinated. The researchers found that the people who had indeed received the vaccination were now less likely to have gonorrhea. The MeNZB vaccine reduced the risk of gonorrhea by about 31 percent.
The researchers say that this is the first time that a vaccine has shown any sign of protection against gonorrhoea. The MeNZB vaccine is an outer membrane vesicle type of vaccine that imitates bacterial bits released as the infection multiplies. The vaccine works by training the immune system to identify and attack this bacteria. The MeNZB vaccine is no longer in use.
The researchers reported that their findings provided experimental evidence that even though meningitis and gonorrhea are two very different infections, meningitis vaccines might offer moderate protection against gonorrhea. This is possibly because the Neisseria meningitis bacteria and the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria have 90% genetic match. This makes these new findings biologically plausible.
Room for Further Research
The researchers say they are not yet aware of what part of the MeNZB vaccine is responsible of the protection against gonorrhea and this would be a good area of research. Having this information will greatly help other researchers come up with a more targeted gonorrhea vaccine in future.
The researchers also recommend that other meningitis vaccines that are currently in use be scrutinized as well because who knows, we might already have a gonorrhoea vaccine somewhere out there.
The results of this study are indeed a big deal given that an estimated 78 million people get infected with gonorrhea worldwide every year. This STD, though treatable is dangerous as it causes pelvic inflammation, infertility as well as throat infections. To make sure that you get treatment early, always go for routine STD testing!
Source: The Lancet Medical Journal