A ‘super gonorrhea’ vaccine is being developed by the team behind AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot

Julia NaftulinTue, 30 March 2021, 9:20 pm

drug resistant gonorrhea
Drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria are responsible for 820,000 gonococcal infections in the US per year. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Medical Illustrator
  • COVID-19 vaccine developers are now working on a vaccine to prevent gonorrhea.
  • Health experts fear the bacterial infection could become untreatable with antibiotics.
  • The resistance could one day mean no antibiotics are able to treat a “super gonorrhea” strain.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Oxford University scientists who collaborated with AstraZeneca to develop the COVID-19 vaccine already have a new assignment: create a vaccine to treat the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea, The Telegraph reports.

To do that, global antibacterial funding program CARB-X granted Oxford’s Jenner Institute $2 million to develop the cocktail.

Health experts fear the bacterial infection could one day become untreatable with antibiotics, which are currently used to cure people who contract diseases like gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia. Physicians say an uptick in antibiotic prescriptions over the years for various ailments has led gonorrhea to mutate and survive typical treatments, an expert previously told Insider.

Antibiotics have also been used during the coronavirus pandemic to treat COVID-19-related illnesses like chest infections and pneumonia. Our increased reliance on antibiotics could eventually lead to a mutated version of a near-indestructible form of gonorrhea, which scientists call “super gonorrhea.”

This could make it more difficult for people with gonorrhea to get effective treatment, though it wouldn’t make cases of gonorrhea, or the transmission of it from person-to-person, more severe, Dr. H. Hunter Handsfield, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Washington Center for AIDS and STD and advisor with the American Sexual Health Association, previously told Insider.

Antibiotics for treating gonorrhea are already failing

There have been signs gonorrhea is becoming supercharged since 2007.

Since the 1990s, the CDC recommended doctors use the antibiotic ciprofloxacin to treat gonorrhea.

But in 2007, the CDC switched to recommending a combination of two different antibiotics, ceftriaxone and azithromycin, because too many gonorrhea cases proved resistant to ciprofloxacin treatment, Insider previously reported.

Then, in 2018, experts found the STI had become resistant to azithromycin and suggested doctors pivot to using yet another antibiotic, ceftriaxone.

“The indiscriminate use of antibiotics may actually increase pressure on the development of resistance to gonorrhea,” Dr. Peter Leone, Professor of Medicine in Division of Infectious Diseases at the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, previously told Insider.

The Oxford scientists leading the charge for a super gonorrhea vaccine hope it can reach a clinical trial phase by 2024.

Currently, they’re testing a vaccine candidate that works by injecting imperceptible fluid-filled sacs into the body. The sacs have small amounts of gonococcus – the bacterium that cause gonorrhea – which are meant to train a person’s body to recognize the infection and fight it off, End Points reported.

Read the original article on Insider

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