Gonorrhoea vaccine on cusp of being a reality

  • 10/09/2016
Dr Coughlan says resistance to treatment is seemingly on the rise (iStock)
Dr Coughlan says resistance to treatment is seemingly on the rise (iStock)

Researchers are hailing a breakthrough in the treatment of sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea as a game changer.

A recent study has shown a vaccine used for meningitis has also had an effect on decreasing the transmission of gonorrhoea.

The discovery was made by researchers at the University of Auckland led by Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, from the university's Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

"This is an exciting discovery that has the potential to help combat a very common and distressing disease," says Dr Petousis-Harris.

New Zealand Sexual Health Society president Edward Coughlan says cases of the STI have been rising in New Zealand.

"We do have some rates much higher in some communities than others, and it's also a lot higher in the younger age group than in the older age group as well," he said.

Dr Coughlan says the new vaccine should bring the number of those with the infection down - and it won't be long until it's available.

"It is a significant breakthrough. Often we use vaccines against other diseases like gardasil for human papillomavirus against hepatitis B - but we've never had one against gonorrhoea, so this is a very good breakthrough."

However he says the best protection remains simply practicing safe sex, especially with resistance to treatment seemingly on the rise.

"We've had to go from an oral treatment to using intramuscular injection, and some people have been failing that treatment overseas," Dr Coughlan said.

"There have been some cases of decreased susceptibility for this treatment in New Zealand."

Around 70 people per 100,000 become infected with gonorrhoea every year. In New Zealand it is the second most reported sexually transmitted bacterial disease after chlamydia with about 3000 cases reported each year.