A superbug needs to be stopped. A Glaxo vaccine may slow it down

Cases of gonorrhea are rising in New Zealand, which is examining ways to slow down the spread of the sexually transmitted disease. One way could be using a vaccine already on the market against meningococcal bacterium.

Cases of gonorrhea are rising in New Zealand, which is examining ways to slow down the spread of the sexually transmitted disease. One way could be using a vaccine already on the market against meningococcal bacterium. Gonorrhea is becoming increasingly antibiotic resistant and some strains are behaving like related infections that persist in the throat, making transmission easier, physicians say. Helen Petousis-Harris, PhD, a vaccinologist at the University of Auckland, worked with colleagues to show that a custom-made meningococcal B vaccination was associated with protection against gonorrhea. Her paper published in Lancet estimated that vaccination against meningococcal B resulted in 31% effectiveness against gonorrhea. GlaxoSmithKline has not yet made a decision on whether to target gonorrhea with serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (Bexsero-GlaxoSmithKline), which is predicted to generate $780 million in sales this year as a strictly meningococcal B vaccine. The product has a retail price in the United States of about $166 per dose. The bacterial causes of meningococcal disease and gonorrhea share 80% to 90% of their DNA, and results of studies using animal models support the use of serogroup B meningococcal vaccine for controlling gonorrhea. However, gauging success would be difficult because there is no known way to determine protection against gonorrhea in humans, notes Charlene Kahler, PhD, head of infection and immunity at the University of Western Australia’s School of Biomedical Sciences in Perth.