Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease with 78 million new cases worldwide each year, could be treated more effectively with antibiotics or, above all, a vaccine, thanks to a discovery made by researchers in the USA.
Gonorrhea can have serious consequences, especially for women, and can lead to endometritis, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, epididymitis and infertility. Babies born to mothers infected with gonorrhea are also at increased risk of blindness. As a result, the need for effective treatment is essential.
Researchers from Oregon State University, OHSU College of Pharmacy and Ann Jerse's lab at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, collaborated to discover a protein that combats enzymes in the body called lysozymes, found in epithelial cells on the outside of the body, as well as in bodily cavities and in certain cells inside the body.
These enzymes are effectively the body's first line of innate immune defense when it comes to thwarting bacteria. However, gonorrhea bacteria have developed ways of fighting lysozymes. The lysozyme-inhibitor protein discovered by the researchers could be a prime new target for treatment, reducing the bacteria's ability to cause infection.
After conclusive tests on mice, this discovery opens the door to the potential development of new-generation antibiotics and, above all, the possibility of a vaccine, according to study lead, Aleksandra Sikora.
The study findings are published in the journal, PLOS Pathogens.