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Study: Meningitis vaccine offers possible defense against gonorrhea
Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is spreading across world and more and more cases of drug resistant gonorrhea are being diagnosed, which is creating a public health concern.

Researchers have discovered that a vaccine used to fight meningitis also offers some level of protection against gonorrhea. 

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that if left untreated, it can cause painful pelvic inflammation in women, and infertility in both men and women. Gonorrhea can also spread in the blood to cause life-threatening infections in other parts of the body. If a pregnant woman is infected, gonorrhoea can cause blindness in the unborn child. The disease is easily spread and because many infected people are are unaware of their infection they unlowingly pass it on to their new sexual.

Until now there has been no vaccine against the disease and the ony course of treatment has been the prescription of antibiotics.

However, bacterial resistance to antibiotics is spreading across world and more and more cases of drug resistant gonorrhea are being diagnosed, which is creating a public health concern.

For a new study, published in The Lancet, researchers looked at diagnosed gonorrhoea cases among people who would have been eligible for a meningococcal B vaccine administered to over a million New Zealanders between 2004 and 2006.

Meningococcal bacteria, spread through coughing or kissing, can cause meningitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and a blood infection called septicaemia. Both can be fatal. While they are vastly different in symptoms and transmission, the meningitis and gonorrhoea bacteria are a very close genetic match, the researchers said.

The researchers found that those who had been vaccinated against Meningitis were significantly less likely to have gonorrhea. And taking into account factors such as ethnicity, deprivation, geographical area and gender, having the MeNZB vaccine reduced the incidence of gonorrhea by around 31%.

The researchers discovered  that people who got the meningitis vaccine in New Zealand "were significantly less likely to have gonorrhoea" than people who did not get the shot.

"This is the first time a vaccine has shown any protection against gonorrhoea," said study co-author Helen Petousis-Harris of the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

How the immune system is triggered for gonorrhoea is not understood, and the vaccine, used in a specific outbreak, is no longer available. Some of the same molecules were used, however, to manufacture another meningococcal vaccine that is still in use.

Further study is crucial to determine how the meningitis shot blocked gonorrhoea, Kate Seib of the Institute for Glycomics at Australia's Griffith University wrote in a comment on the study.

"In light of the high burden of disease and the threat of gonorrhoea becoming untreatable because of antibiotic resistance, there is an increased imperative to revisit vaccine options and reinvigorate research in this field."