Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of getting gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that if left untreated can lead to serious and permanent health issues, including infertility. About 82.4 million people were newly infected with gonorrhea in 2020 alone. Contracting gonorrhea can have unpleasant symptoms, but it can be treated and even cured with antibiotics. However, with the growing number of cases, gonorrhea is becoming antibiotic-resistant. A vaccine specifically for gonorrhea doesn’t exist yet. But, recent studies suggest a side effect of meningitis vaccines guarding against gonorrhea.
More On Gonorrhea
To understand more about how the vaccines licensed to use against meningitis could be effective for gonorrhea, you should know a little bit more about the STI and how it could affect your body. Gonorrhea is most commonly spread from one infected person to another through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. The bacterium infects the mucous membranes of the reproductive tract. This includes the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes in women and the urethra in women and men. In addition to these areas, gonorrhea can also infect the mouth, throat, eyes, and rectum. Common symptoms include painful urination, increased vaginal discharge for women, and pain or swelling in one testicle in men. As for areas outside of the reproductive tract, other signs depend on the area affected. For example, if it’s an infection in the throat, you may experience swollen lymph nodes in the neck. If you think you may have contracted gonorrhea from unprotected sex, you should seek medical care. You can be tested and receive treatment, which is typically one 500-milligram shot of the antibiotic ceftriaxone. Prevention methods include using a condom during sex and making sure you and your sexual partners are tested for STIs.
Recent Vaccine Studies
There is an increasing number of cases still occurring worldwide. One of the potential ways to curb the growing number of cases – utilizing vaccines already in use.
A vaccine specifically for gonorrhea doesn’t exist right now. Still, recent studies published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases examined vaccines meant to prevent meningitis and their effectiveness against gonorrhea. While these studies aren’t the first done, they are the most promising so far. One study of 40,000 people in New York and Philadelphia looked at the MenB-4C vaccine, used for meningitis, and showed the promise of offering cross-protection. The antibodies from the MenB-4C vaccine recognize proteins in the gonococcal bacteria, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and fight against them.
The second study was held in Australia and followed a group of adolescents two years after they received vaccination with the MenB-4C vaccine. Their results indicated that two doses of the MenB-4C vaccine were associated with a lower risk of gonorrhea. The last study took place in London and illustrated how the utilization of the meningitis vaccine could help prevent over 110,000 gonorrhea cases in England alone in the next ten years.
This doesn’t mean we should stop the pursuit of a gonorrhea-specific vaccine. With the rise in antibacterial-resistant strains of gonorrhea, the STI could one day become an untreatable infection. Through the exploration of multi-use vaccines, the development of an effective vaccine for gonorrhea might be feasible. Until the development and approval of a gonorrhea-specific vaccine happens, you should continue to take preventative measures against contracting gonorrhea and if you suspect you may have it, you should get tested.
Passport Health offers a variety of options that can help prevent STIs, blood infections, and other related diseases. These include hepatitis B, HPV, and more. Call 937-306-7541 or book online to schedule your appointment today.
Written for Passport Health by Brianna Malotke. Brianna is a freelance writer and costume designer located in Illinois. She’s an avid coffee drinker and enjoys researching new topics for writing projects. Her site can be found here.