An outbreak in the north of England of a highly drug-resistant strain of gonorrhoea has highlighted the need for a vaccine to protect against the disease.
Public Health England has issued a national alert regarding the strain, which is resistant to treatment with the antiobiotic drug azithromycin. Until recently, gonorrhoea had been easily treatable with antibiotics. If left alone it can cause infertility in women and painful urination and infection in men.
Researchers on the Oxford Martin Programme on Vaccines are working to develop a vaccine against the disease.
Professor Martin Maiden said: "The past years have seen a dramatic rise in antimicrobial resistant strains of Neisseria gonorrheoae, in large part due to the propensity of these organisms to exchange genes with each other and with other closely related species.
"Funded by the Oxford Martin School, researchers in the Department of Zoology and William Dunn School of Pathology are taking an integrated approach to understanding the biology of these organisms and to develop novel interventions against them."
The School's programme includes work on the development of novel vaccination approaches, a topic highlighted at an international workshop hosted this year in Washington by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, 'Gonorrhoea Vaccines: the Way Forward', at which Professor Maiden and his colleague Dr Odile Harrison were invited speakers.
A spokesman for Public Health England told The Daily Telegraph the organisation is "concerned that the effectiveness of current front-line dual therapy for gonorrhoea will be threatened if this resistant strain continues to spread unchecked".