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Published On: Sat, Sep 28th, 2013

Anti-cancer therapy shown to stimulate immune response to gonorrhea

Researchers at the University at Buffalo (UB), State University of New York (SUNY) have found an anti-cancer therapy developed by one of their scientists actually stimulates the immune system in mice and eliminated the sexually transmitted infection, gonorrhea.

The UB team’s research was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

This Gram-stained photomicrograph reveals the presence of intracellular Gram-negative, Neisseria gonorrhoeae diplococcal bacteria, amongst numerous white blood cells (WBCs). Image/CDC

This Gram-stained photomicrograph reveals the presence of intracellular Gram-negative, Neisseria gonorrhoeae diplococcal bacteria, amongst numerous white blood cells (WBCs). Image/CDC

According to a university release, the treatment, NanoCap developed by Nejat K. Egilmez, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology from the  UB Department of Microbiology and Immunology —not only eliminated gonococcal infection in female mice but prevented reinfection.

Michael W. Russell, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology, became intrigued with the anti-cancer therapy while he and his colleagues were considering how to modify the immune response to gonococcal infection.

Such infections seem to inhibit specific adaptive immune responses, he says, which is one of the reasons why people can become reinfected.

“Gonococcal infection very cleverly controls the immune system, inducing responses the bacterium can fight and suppressing the responses it cannot fight,” explains Russell, the paper’s senior author.

NanoCap, the sustained release nanoparticle treatment that Egilmez developed, uses Interleukin-12, a protein that helps stimulate an immune response against tumors that normally suppress immunity.

“We had the idea that these IL-12 microspheres being used against tumors could be used to generate an immune response against gonococcal infection as well,” Russell says.

“The research proves they can.”

When the IL-12 microspheres were administered intravaginally in mice, they developed antibodies specific to N. gonorrhoeae, and the infection cleared within days.

A month later, attempts to reinfect the mice with the bacterium failed, demonstrating that they had retained the ability to fight reinfection.

“With this treatment, we have reversed the immunosuppression that gonococcal infection normally causes and allowed an effective immune response to develop,” Russell says.

“It could be argued that when the IL-12 microspheres are administered this way, they serve as an adjuvant that, in effect, converts the gonococcal infection into a live vaccine, thus essentially vaccinating the very population at risk for repeat infections.”

Russell and his colleagues plan to see if immunity can last longer than a month in mice and, ultimately, test the treatment in humans.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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