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Scientists may have discovered a new weapon in the fight against gonorrhea

Australian researchers have announced a discovery that may lead to a new weapon in the fight against gonorrhea.

Incidences of gonorrhea infection have risen in Australia over the past five years–as they have in the United States–across the board, though with a particularly sharp incidence among gay and bisexual men. Worse, new strains of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea have made treating the sexually transmitted infection more difficult. Aussie scientists now say that a meningitis vaccine could provide a new level of prevention against the disease.

Related: Gonorrhea is dangerously close to being incurable

“Gonorrhoea is a global public health concern, especially as we are seeing increases in antibiotic resistance,” Institute for Glycomics lead investigatorAssociate Professor Kate Seib told Griffith News. “But we know that the bacteria causing gonorrhea and meningococcal B disease are very similar, and observational data indicate that a meningococcal vaccine may protect against gonorrhea.”

Seib will lead a new study among gay and bisexual men to determine if those that receive a meningitis B vaccine have a lower incidence of gonorrhea infection. “We hope the outcomes of the project will see a potential repurposing of a licensed vaccine and/or the development of an optimized vaccine to prevent gonorrhea, which will revolutionize global approaches to gonorrhea prevention,” she says.

Prof. Seib will begin her study next year, with hopes of finishing it by 2023. She estimates that a new treatment even just 50% effective could halve rates of gonorrhea infection within ten years.