Is a Gonorrhea Vaccine on the Horizon?

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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Evidence from a large study in New Zealand for bacterial meningitis revealed an interesting finding – the meningitis B vaccine may help protect against gonorrhea. These findings are just observational though, and extensive clinical trials will need to be performed to ensure the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can be cured if properly treated, however, gonorrhea can cause complications like infertility, sepsis or arthritis if not treated.

On July 7th of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a news release that antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is on the rise. With this resistance developing, it is expected that pharmaceutical companies will begin to explore forms of treatment such as vaccinations. Unfortunately, the vaccine that showed positive results for gonorrhea, MeNZB, is no longer available in the UK and has never been used in the United States.

It is too early to make assumptions about the use of the meningitis B vaccine, but this could be a step in the right direction towards preventing gonorrhea, especially amidst the emergence of bacterial resistance.

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is a life threatening infection that can cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes. Symptoms usually arise one week after exposure to the bacteria and include muscle pain, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting. Currently, in the United States, there are three common forms of meningitis – B, Y, and C.

Meningitis vaccines include Bexsero, Trumenba, Menactra, and Menveo. More information is needed to see if any of these vaccines could be used to prevent against gonorrhea.

How can I protect myself against gonorrhea?

For now, the most effective way to prevent gonorrhea is to always use a condom during sex, even during oral or anal sex.

Are there any vaccinations available for sexually transmitted infections?

Yes. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. The HPV vaccine can protect against disease (including cancer) caused by HPV, when given at the appropriate time. You can read more about the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, here.

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