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Aug 07
For the first time, vaccine shows protection against gonorrhea
Researchers say a vaccine, originally developed to protect against a strain of meningitis, has been shown to ward off gonorrhea - a sexually transmitted infection.

The findings mark the first time a vaccine has shown any protection against gonorrhea and point to new avenues in the search for a specific vaccine to stop the global spread of 'super-gonorrhea'.

For their study, the researchers at the University of Auckland used data from 11 sexual health clinics for all people aged 15 to 30 who had been diagnosed with gonorrhea or chlamydia, or both, and who had also been eligible to be immunised against meningitis in the 2004-2006 campaign.

They found that those who had been vaccinated were significantly less likely to have gonorrhea.

According to they study, people who had received who had received the meningococcal B vaccine were 31 percent less likely to be infected with gonorrhea than those who hadn't received the MeNZB vaccine.

"This new research could be game-changing," said Linda Glennie, an expert at the Meningitis Research Foundation who was not directly involved in the study.

The findings "provide experimental evidence and a proof of principle" that meningitis vaccines might offer moderate cross-protection against gonorrhea," Helen Petousis-Harris, who co-led the study at the University of Auckland, said.

"Our findings could inform future vaccine development for both the meningococcal and gonorrhea vaccines," she added.

Despite the diseases being very different in symptoms and transmission modes, she added, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis have an up to 90 percent genetic match, providing a biologically plausible mechanism.

Yet so far, efforts to develop a gonorrhea vaccine have yielded disappointing results: Four potential shots have reached the clinical trial stage, but none has been effective.

Gonorrhea has become an increasingly urgent global health problem in recent years as it is getting much harder and sometimes impossible to treat due to antibiotic resistance.

Because of this, the World Health Organization includes gonorrhea in its list of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health.

Each year, an estimated 78 million people are infected with gonorrhoea which can infect the genitals, rectum, and throat.

Complications of gonorrhoea disproportionally affect women, including pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility, as well as an increased risk of HIV.

The WHO said safer sexual behaviour, in particular consistent and correct condom use, can help prevent gonorrhoea.

The new findings have been published in The Lancet medical journal on Tuesday.

Aug 07
Diabetes and sleep apnoea may lead to vision loss: Study
Patients who suffer from both Type 2 diabetes and obstructive sleep apnoea are at greater risk of losing their vision within a period of four years, a study has found.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, resulting in snoring and interrupting breathing, and it is common in patients with Type 2 diabetes.

Meanwhile, diabetic retinopathy - the most common form of diabetic eye disease - affects between 40 and 50 per cent of patients with diabetes and is a leading cause of blindness in the western world.

Previous studies have shown a link between OSA and diabetic retinopathy.

However, there had been no published studies assessing the impact of OSA on the progression of diabetic retinopathy in patients with Type 2 diabetes.

"Despite improvements in glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels, diabetic retinopathy remains very common," said Abd Tahrani from the University of Birmingham in the UK.

"Meanwhile, OSA has been shown to be very common in patients with Type 2 diabetes, which is not surprising considering that excess weight contributes to the development of both of these conditions," said Tahrani.

"However, most patients who have OSA are not aware that they have the condition and the disease could go undiagnosed for years," he said.

"We have shown that patients with OSA and Type 2 diabetes, compared to those with diabetes only, are at increased risk of developing advanced diabetic retinopathy over a period of three years and seven months," he added.

The study was carried out at two diabetes clinics and involved 230 patients with Type 2 diabetes.

The patients were assessed for diabetic retinopathy using specialist retinal imaging, while OSA was assessed using a home-based, multi-channel cardio-respiratory portable device.

The results showed that diabetic retinopathy prevalence was higher in patients with OSA (42.9 per cent) compared to those without OSA (24.1 per cent).

The study found that at a follow-up appointment, on average 43 months later, the patients with OSA (18.4 per cent) were more likely to develop moderate to severe diabetic retinopathy compared to those without OSA (6.1 per cent).

It also showed that patients who received treatment for OSA using a machine connected to a face mask that delivers pressure to prevent the blockage of the airways during sleep had a lower risk of developing advanced diabetic retinopathy compared to patients who did not receive the treatment.

"We can conclude from this study that OSA is an independent predictor for the progression to moderate or severe diabetic retinopathy in patients with Type 2 diabetes," said Tahrani.

The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.