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Vaccine for meningitis may prevent gonorrhea

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A vaccine against meningitis may also protect against gonorrhea, Science News reports. In a study of New Zealand residents published in The Lancet, vaccinated individuals were one-third less likely to develop gonorrhea infections than unvaccinated individuals.

Why it matters: So far, there's no vaccine for gonorrhea, which the World Health Organization says infects 88 million people each year. It's traditionally treated with antibiotics, but a recent WHO report found that untreatable strains of the STI are rapidly spreading.

"We are in desperate need for new therapies," Christine Johnston, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Washington in Seattle, told Science News.

How it works: The bacteria in the vaccine (group B meningococcal bacteria) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae are closely related. It isn't surprising that immunity to one might transfer to another.

The study: After noticing that gonorrhea rates seemed to decline in regions where the vaccine was introduced, the researchers cross-referenced the New Zealand vaccine registry with 14,000 New Zealanders who had chlamydia, gonorrhea or both. Since both groups were equally likely to contract chlamydia, the differences in gonorrhea rates probably weren't due to lifestyle.