Gonorrhea Prevented With Meningococcal Vaccine
Without an approved gonorrhea vaccine available, sexually transmitted disease (STD) researchers have been testing well-known bacteria-related vaccines for years.
Vaccine experts in the United Kingdom announced today they are advising certain at-risk people to consider being immunized with a meningococcal B vaccine.
On November 10, 2023, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published an Independent Report agreeing that a targeted program should be initiated using the 4CMenB vaccine for the prevention of gonorrhea in those who are at most significant risk of infection.
Professor Andrew Pollard, Chair of the JCVI, commented in a press release, "Introducing a MenB vaccination program to prevent gonorrhea in England would be a world first and should significantly help to reduce levels of gonorrhea, which are currently at a record high."
4CMenB is a 4-component serogroup B meningococcal vaccine that contains three main Neisseria meningitidis proteins: Neisseria heparin binding antigen; Neisserial adhesion A; factor H binding protein; and meningococcal serogroup B outer membrane vesicles (OMVs).
The only licensed 4-component vaccine currently available in the U.K. is Bexsero®, manufactured by GSK and authorized to prevent meningococcal disease in individuals aged two months and older.
The good news is the 4CMenB vaccine is currently used in routine childhood programs at eight weeks, 16 weeks, and one year to prevent meningococcal disease.
Unfortunately, STD data in 2022 from the U.K. Health Security Agency highlighted a rapid rise in gonorrhea diagnoses in England. The number of diagnoses in 2022 was the highest annual number on record.
This data follows an increasing trend in gonorrhea since the early 2000s.
Evidence of protection from meningococcal serogroup B vaccines has only been observed in OMV-containing vaccines such as 4CMenB and MenB OMV vaccines.
A recent observational study showed that the MenB-FHbp vaccine did not have an effect on gonorrhea infection and also provided evidence that this effect observed with the 4CMenB was not due to healthy vaccinee bias.
At the time of writing, several other studies are ongoing to examine immunogenicity and the potential vaccine effectiveness of 4CMenB in protection against gonorrhea in adolescent or young adult cohorts. Data from these studies will be reviewed by the JCVI once available.
A Research Letter published by The JAMA Network Infectious Diseases in August 2023 concluded that the OMV-based meningococcal group B vaccine was 47% (95% CI, 13%-68%) effective in preventing gonorrhea among young adults aged 18 to 29.
In the U.S., gonorrhea vaccine candidates and treatments are currently being studied.