Researchers in New Zealand have found that teenagers given a meningitis B vaccine were significantly less likely to contract gonorrhoea, marking the first time a vaccine has shown any protection against the sexually transmitted infection (STI).

The retrospective, case-control study, published in The Lancet, found a 31 percent reduction in the incidence of gonorrhoea amongst those vaccinated with the meningitis B jab.

"At the moment, the mechanism behind this immune response is unknown, but our findings could inform future vaccine development for both the meningococcal and gonorrhoea vaccines,” noted lead study author Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, from the University of Auckland.

The surprise finding could be “game changing”, said Linda Glennie, Head of Research at Meningitis Research Foundation, as it may “add weight to the argument for vaccinating teenagers here in the UK with the MenB vaccine, especially since gonorrhoea has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics in the UK and around the world”.

The news came just days after the World Health Organisation warned that antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea is on the rise, with “widespread resistance” to older and cheaper antibiotics.

“To control gonorrhoea, we need new tools and systems for better prevention, treatment, earlier diagnosis, and more complete tracking and reporting of new infections, antibiotic use, resistance and treatment failures,” said Dr Marc Sprenger, director of Antimicrobial Resistance at WHO.

“Specifically, we need new antibiotics, as well as rapid, accurate, point-of-care diagnostic tests - ideally, ones that can predict which antibiotics will work on that particular infection - and longer term, a vaccine to prevent gonorrhoea.”