My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: University of Auckland discover meningitis B vaccine protect against gonorrhoea


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

University of Auckland discover meningitis B vaccine protect against gonorrhoea

“This is the first time a vaccine has shown any protection against gonorrhoea. At the moment, the mechanism behind this immune response is unknown, but our findings could inform future vaccine development”

Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, one of the researchers from the University of Auckland who discovered the gonorrhoea vaccine

Finally, some hope for gonorrhoea sufferers. Even better, it was something we had all along.
Researchers at the University of Auckland have developed a vaccine against gonorrhoea as announced back in July 2017 in the article “First vaccine shows gonorrhoea protection”, published 11 July 2017 by James Gallagher, BBC News.

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In a study published in Lancet, the researchers discovered that young people who had been given a vaccine called MeNZB to combat meningitis B showed immunity to gonorrhoea. Their study involved analyzing data from some 15,000 young people who had visited sexual health clinics in New Zealand between 2004 and 2006.

The researchers discovered that the gonorrhoea cases had fallen 31% in those vaccinated. Interestingly too, protection seemed to last about two (2) years. So why is this so important?

WHO and “super-gonorrhoea” - CRISPR-Cas9 on the horizon but vaccine needed now

The WHO sees the developement of a vaccine as vital in stopping the global spread of “super-gonorrhoea”. This developement is incredibly important, as the WHO (World Health Organization) is worried about the fact that gonorrhoea is currently untreatable with the antibiotics that are currently available.

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Gonorrhoea infects 78 million people each year, and can cause infertility. Also we have no natural immunity to the bacterium, no matter how many times we contract the disease. Eventually CRISPR-Cas9 may soon be employed to make tailor made cocktails to stop the disease in its tracks, as shown below, but this is a long way off.

So this is a huge developement as pointed out by fellow researcher Prof Steven Black, from Cincinnati Children's Hospital in the US: “The potential ability of a group B meningococcal vaccine to provide even moderate protection against gonorrhoea would have substantial public health benefits”

So why does a vaccine made for meningitis B protects against gonorrhoea? And how can it be used to fight the global spread of “super-gonorrhoea”.

University of Auckland and gonorrhoea vaccine - Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria gonorrhoeae are cousins

The disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It is spread by unprotected sex.

1.      Symptoms can include:
2.      Thick green or yellow discharge from sexual organs
3.      Pain when urinating
4.      Bleeding between periods

Untreated infection can lead to:

1.      Infertility
2.      Pelvic inflammatory disease
3.      Disease being passed on to a child during pregnancy

Unfortunately, gonorrhoea is a silent epidemic, as 10% heterosexual men and 75% women and gay men have no easily recognizable symptoms. Gargling with Listerine may hay stop the spread among homosexuals and those who practice oral sex as noted in my blog article entitled “How Australian National Health and Medical Research Council discovered that Listerine kills Gonorrhea” but that isn’t prevention and neither it is guaranteed to work.

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Enter a new hope with this discovery that the meningitis B vaccine, MeNZB, grants immunity to gonorrhoea. Turns out that the bacterium that causes meningitis, Neisseria meningitidis, is a cousin of the species that causes gonorrhoea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae!

Why researcher never spotted this before is quite amazing really. Then again, must treatments are tailored to be specific. 

It’s good to note that this was discovered accidentally via a statistical survey. Even more interesting is that the UK is the only country in the world that routinely immunizes children with MeNZB which is no longer available.

Component of the old vaccine MeNZB are to be found in the new meningitis B vaccine called 4CMenB. Albeit not a vaccine, this points researcher in the right direction to developing one tailor made for Neisseria meningitidis cousin, Neisseria gonorrhoeae to quote Dr Teodora Wi, from the WHO: “There are high hopes that now there's going to be some cross-protection. We are still a long way before we develop a vaccine for gonorrhoea, but we have now some evidence that it is possible”.

This may be the first step in preventing people developing a gonorrhoea infection, especially as gonorrhoea is getting harder to treat and has no clearly visible symptoms in the early stages.

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