Our research shows that protection against gonorrhoea could come from an unexpected source - a vaccine against meningococcal group B disease.
Given the emergence of gonorrhea strains that are increasingly resistant to the last-line antibiotic regimen, global health officials consider development of a vaccine against gonorrhea an important priority.
Oral sex and a decline in condom use are reportedly behind the spread of the disease, which can infect the genitals, rectum and throat.
The three-dose vaccine was introduced in 2004 in response to an epidemic strain of the meningococcal B bacterium, and New Zealand offered the vaccine free to anyone under the age of 20 between 2004 and 2006.
It was the first time that a vaccine had shown any protection against gonorrhoea, which is also known as "the clap".
Fellow researcher Prof Steven Black, from Cincinnati Children's Hospital in the United States, said: "The potential ability of a group B meningococcal vaccine to provide even moderate protection against gonorrhoea would have substantial public health benefits".
The study said that despite meingitis and gonorrhoea being very different diseases in terms of symptoms and mode of transmission, the bacteria behind them are matched by 80 to 90 per cent.
Taking other factors into account, including ethnicity and gender, the researchers concluded that having received the meningococcal vaccine reduced the incidence of gonorrhea by about 31%.
"Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug", said Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the Geneva-based United Nations health agency.
Meningitis B is caused by Neisseria meningitides, a bacteria similar to the one that causes gonorrhoea, so experts thought the MeNZB vaccine may be able to protect against both.
This means someone being diagnosed with chlamydia but not gonorrhoea could be the result of the meningococcal B vaccine.
There are 78 million new gonorrhoea cases a year, due to the sexually-transmitted Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterial infection, reports the study.
For the study, Petousis-Harris and colleagues reviewed information on about 1 million people who received the MeNZB vaccine in a mass immunization program. The researchers had no information about people's exposure to gonorrhea, only whether people were treated for the infection at a clinic.
It is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United Kingdom after chlamydia, with the majority of cases affecting people under the age of 25. The researchers found that individuals vaccinated with MeNZB were significantly less likely to have contracted gonorrhea that those who were not.
In the United States, teens and preteens, as well as some children and adults, are advised to get one of two meningococcal vaccines to protect against meningitis.
Yet so far, efforts to develop a gonorrhea vaccine have yielded disappointing results: Four potential shots have reached the clinical trial stage, but none has been effective.
As drug resistance spreads, doctors are diagnosing more and more cases that can not be treated by antibiotics, making it a major public health concern.
For some reason, I have a gut feeling that a gonorrhoea vaccine is something that even antivaxxers would have an interest in.
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