Finally, we’re catching a bit of a break in the battle against drug-resistant infectious diseases. A New Zealand study has shown a meningococcal B vaccine provides some protection against gonorrhoea, which the WHO has been highlighted as an emerging drug-resistant disease.
Between 2004 and 2008, while New Zealand was in the grips of a Group B meningococcal epidemic, a tailor-made vaccine (MeNZB) was developed and given to over a million Kiwis. A surprising side-effect at the time was that gonorrhoea rates appeared to decline immediately following the vaccination, according to new research, published today in The Lancet.
Lead author Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, from the University of Auckland, wrote on The Conversation that while similar vaccines in Cuba and Norway also appeared to have an effect, New Zealand was well placed to test whether the observation could be scientifically proven. Given the two diseases are caused by related bacteria – Neisseria gonnorhoeae and Neisseria meningitides – it seemed plausible, Dr Petousis-Harris wrote.
The Lancet study looked at more than 14,000 people and found those who had received the vaccination were significantly less likely to have gonorrhoea than those who didn’t. The estimated 31 per cent effectiveness might not sound like much, Dr Petousis-Harris wrote, but models suggest it is enough to decrease the prevalence of gonorrhoea significantly within 15 years.
And while the MeNZB vaccine is no longer available, the antigens have been included in other vaccines.
Last week, the World Health Organization warned that untreatable strains of gonorrhoea were on the rise worldwide. Untreated, the bacterial infection can lead to complications including pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and the infection can facilitate the transmission of HIV.
The study and its implications have been widely covered by local and international media:
TVNZ: ‘It gives us hope’ – Kiwi doctor makes significant breakthrough in fight against untreatable gonorrhoea
Stuff.co.nz: NZ-led research shows potential for world-first gonorrhoea vaccine
Radio NZ: NZ research shows promise for gonorrhoea protection
NZ Newswire: Meningitis shot may cut gonorrhoea: study
The Guardian: Meningitis vaccine may also cut risk of ‘untreatable’ gonorrhoea, study says
STAT: Vaccine shows protection against gonorrhea for first time, study says
New Scientist: Meningitis B vaccines may fight the rise of super-gonorrhoea
ScienceNews: The fight against gonorrhea gets a potential new weapon: a vaccine
MedPage Today: Meningitis Vax Works — for Gonorrhea
Australian Journal of Pharmacy: Meningococcal B vaccine may protect against gonorrhoea