An already existing vaccine against type B meningitis could protect against a sexually transmitted disease, gonorrhea, according to three studies published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Also called gonorrhea or even hot piss, this infection, caused by a bacterium transmitted during unprotected sexual intercourse, mainly affects people under 30, men in particular.
Left untreated, gonorrhea can lead, for example, to an increased risk of contracting HIV or infertility in women. More than 80 million new cases were recorded worldwide in 2020, a number that is increasing.
In 2016, the WHO set a goal to reduce the incidence of gonorrhea by 90% by 2030. But an effective vaccine has not yet been developed, and the declining effectiveness of drugs against the causative bacteria raises fears that gonorrhea will become more resistant.
Hence the interest in vaccines against meningococcal B meningitis, which could help improve protection against gonorrhea, according to results published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
According to a first study, conducted in Australia by Professor Helen Marshall, the two-dose 4CMenB anti-meningitis vaccine appears to be 33% effective against gonorrhea.
The figures are similar in a second study, conducted in the United States by Dr. Winston Abara: vaccination with two doses of this vaccine against meningitis B seems to provide 40% protection against gonorrhea. A single dose of vaccine would have been 26% effective.
These two studies, for which the authors recognize certain limits, only evaluate the data after the fact, and therefore do not make it possible to be certain of a direct cause and effect link. Clinical trials are therefore needed to confirm this.
Even if the vaccine against meningitis B is not an ideal answer to gonorrhea, it could make it possible to move forward in particular to find a specific vaccine, believe the researchers.
A third study sought to model the health and economic effects of using the meningitis B vaccine to protect against gonorrhea.
Vaccinating those most at risk of infection is the most cost-effective way to prevent large numbers of cases, according to this modeling study led by Imperial College London. It could prevent 110,000 cases in England and save £8million over 10 years.