Meningitis vaccine protects against gonorrhea—studies

Meningitis (meningococcal) vaccine | Stock image

PARIS — An existing meningitis vaccine offers protection against gonorrhea, three studies announced Thursday, pointing to a new way to fight the spread of the sexually transmitted disease.

Sometimes called “the clap”, gonorrhea infected an estimated 82 million people last year, according to the World Health Organization.

The number of cases has risen as resistance to the drugs used to treat the disease increases, raising fears that it is becoming increasingly incurable.

No vaccine has been developed for gonorrhea, which mainly affects people under 30 – especially men – and can only be prevented by using a condom or abstaining from sex.

However, three new studies published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases show how effective a vaccine against another bacterial infection, meningitis B, could be against gonorrhea.

Australian researchers analyzed data from more than 53,000 adolescents and young adults who received the two-dose meningococcal B vaccine 4CMenB in the state of South Australia.

They found that while it was very effective against meningitis and sepsis, it was also 33% effective against gonorrhea.

Helen Marshall of Women’s and Children’s Hospital Adelaide, who led the study, said the results were “vital in informing global meningitis vaccination programs and policy decisions”.

Another study conducted in the United States found that two doses of the vaccine offered 40% protection against gonorrhea, while one dose offered 26%.

The study, led by Winston Abara of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at the medical records of 110,000 young people aged 16 to 23 in New York and Philadelphia from 2016 to 2018, comparing cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia to meningococcal vaccination. rates.

Both sets of authors acknowledged the limitations of their observational studies, calling for clinical trials to confirm the findings.

Such trials could “also offer important insights into the development of a vaccine specifically for gonorrhea,” Abara said.

A third study in Britain used modeling to examine the health and economic impact of gonorrhea vaccine use.

Researchers estimated that a vaccination campaign targeting men who have sex with men in England would avert 110,000 cases and save eight million pounds ($10.4 million, £9.6 million). euros) over a decade.

Gonorrhea spreads easily because many carriers are unaware of their infection and unwittingly pass it on to new sexual partners.

Untreated, it can lead to infertility in both sexes and increase susceptibility to contracting HIV.


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