Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae and is one of the leading reportable STDs in adults, with ~87 million cases annually and globally. Gonorrhoea remains a major global public health concern not only because of rising incidence each year, but also because of rising antimicrobial resistance. There is an urgent need for long-term solutions to prevent gonorrhoea such as vaccines, but none currently existand research is focused on identifying potential antigens for inclusion in new vaccines. In our study, we used an immuno-proteomics approach to try and identify potential vaccine candidates.

A heterologous N. gonorrhoeae strain P9-17 was grown under iron-limiting conditions and whole cell lysates prepared. These were separated by isoelectric focusing (pH 3-10 range) and fractions were separated by SDS-PAGE. Western blots were prepared and reacted with sera from 20 patients with uncomplicated gonorrhoea and with sera from 5 controls with no history of gonorrhoea. Immuno-reactive bands were excised from the corresponding gels and subjected to mass spectrometry, which provided a profile of gonococcal proteins. After comparing patterns of reactivity, we identified 180 bands in sera from gonorrhoea patients. Using a bio-informatics approach we refined the list to 18 bands of interest and identified 13 novel proteins associated with an increase in immuno-reactivity with gonococci.

In summary, we have identified a unique set of gonococcal proteins that have not yet been investigated as potential vaccine antigens and that are the focus of current studies to develop a gonococcal vaccine.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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