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The fight against gonorrhea gets a potential new weapon: a vaccine

Shot that curbs meningitis also appears to reduce infections of the sexually transmitted disease

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6:30pm, July 10, 2017
Gonorrhea

TWO-FOR-ONE  Gonorrhea culprit Neisseria gonorrhoeae (left, in false color) is genetically similar to bacteria that can cause meningitis, Neisseria meningitidis (right, in false color). That close relationship might explain why a vaccine that curbed meningitis in New Zealand also seemed to reduce gonorrhea infections.

A vaccine against meningitis has an unexpected side effect: It appears to target gonorrhea, too. If confirmed, the results represent the first instance of a vaccine reducing gonorrhea infections.

After receiving a vaccine aimed at a type of meningitis, people were less likely to contract gonorrhea, scientists report online June 10 in the Lancet. That’s a big deal because worldwide each year, an estimated 78 million people contract gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause pelvic inflammation, infertility and throat infections. Gonorrhea’s bacterial culprit, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, has developed resistance to many antibiotics, making treatment much more difficult. Some strains of gonorrhea can now resist all known antibiotics, the Word Health Organization announced July 7.

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