Blocking Gonorrhea: New Vaccine?


ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) —It’s being called a young person’s disease, with the highest incidence of infection in people between the ages 15 to 24. Now researchers are a step closer to developing a vaccine to stop gonorrhea in its tracks.

Gonorrhea is the second most common reported disease in the United States and if not treated the effects can be destructive.

“Particularly among women, namely pelvic inflammatory disease, which very frequently leads to infertility,” Cynthia Cornelissen, PhD, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Georgia State University told Ivanhoe.

(Read Full Interview)

And even through there is a cure, experts are concerned with the increase of antibiotic resistance.

“It’s also became what’s known as an urgent threat pathogen,” Professor Cornelissen explained.

Because gonorrhea has developed resistance to nearly every drug used for treatment.

“That’s pretty scary because it could be an untreatable case pretty soon, “Julie Stoudenmire, PhD, a post-doctoral associate at Georgia State University shared.

Now Cornelissen and her team are working on a way to stop the spread of the disease, by cutting off the supply of metals and minerals the pathogen needs to survive.

“They can hijack the metals from their host directly from these metal-binding proteins, so, they’re sort of the ultimate kleptomaniac,” Professor Cornelissen illustrated.

Cornelissen discovered that by blocking the pathogen from stealing minerals, such as zinc and iron from its human host, they can starve and kill it, preventing the infection from spreading. Now using that information, Cornelissen is developing a vaccine to block the gonorrhea pathogen from even infecting the host.

“If we could develop vaccines against these SDI pathogens, we could, you know, nip this sort of epidemic in the bud,” Professor Cornelissen shared.

Cornelissen says it’s her hope this gonorrhea vaccine will decrease the rate of gonorrhea infections and in turn prevent women from getting pelvic inflammatory disease, which again, can lead to infertility.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.

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BACKGROUND: Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that infects the mucous membranes of the reproductive tract, including the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes in women, and the urethra in women and men. The CDC estimates approximately 1.14 million new infections occur in the United States each year, and as many as half occur among young people aged 15-24. Gonorrhea is transmitted through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus of an infected partner, and can also be spread perinatally from mother to baby during childbirth. People who have had gonorrhea and received treatment can be reinfected if they have sexual contact with an infected person.


COMPLICATIONS AND SYMPTOMS: Gonorrhea, left untreated, can cause serious and permanent health problems. In women, it can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease. This can lead to internal abscesses and chronic pelvic pain, and ultimately, infertility. In men, gonorrhea may be complicated by epididymitis, and in rare cases, this may lead to infertility. Gonorrhea can spread to the blood and cause disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI). DGI is characterized by arthritis, tenosynovitis, and/or dermatitis, and can be life-threatening. Signs and symptoms of urethral infection in men include dysuria or a white, yellow, or green urethral discharge that usually appears one to 14 days after infection. When a woman has symtpoms, they are often so mild and nonspecific that they are mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. The initial symptoms include dysuria, increased vaginal discharge, or vaginal bleeding between periods.


NEW GONORRHEA ANTIBIOTIC: The results of a trial in The New England Journal of Medicine, show that zoliflodacin, a single-dose oral antibiotic with a mechanism of action that differs from current available therapies, was highly effective in treating patients with urogenital and rectal gonorrhea infections. The need for new treatment options has grown urgent as resistance to the current treatment regimen of azithromycin and ceftriaxone rises worldwide. “The results are very encouraging, because we have not had a new drug come down the pipeline in a long time for gonorrhea, and this is the perfect time, now that we are starting to see resistance,” said lead investigator Stephanie Taylor, MD, a professor of medicine and microbiology at Louisiana State University School of Medicine. The results pave the way for the phase 3 trial, which will be conducted in the Netherlands, South Africa, Thailand, and United States. Results from that trial will determine whether zoliflodacin will be approved and become an alternative option for treating gonorrhea.






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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Cynthia Nau Cornelissen, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology

Read the entire Q&A