BMC Physician Lee Wetzler awarded $2.35 million grant to develop gonorrhea vaccine

Lee Wetzler, a physician at Boston Medical Center’s Department of Infectious Diseases, was awarded a four year $2.35 million grant for the development of a vaccine against gonorrhea.

Wetzler, also a professor at Boston University School of Medicine, is tasked with successfully developing a model for a gonococcal vaccine, after 30 years of cumulative research has not yet produced an effective vaccine. Wetzler has a plan he believes will result in a successful gonococcal vaccine.

The gonococcal bacterium has steadily developed a resistance to antibiotics, making the need for an effective vaccine urgent. The Centers for Disease Control stated only one class of antibiotics is effective in the treatment of gonorrhea.

“This disease has potentially devastating outcomes specifically in women, causing pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal fibrosis and ectopic pregnancies,” Wetzler said. “Additionally, concurrent gonorrhea infection in HIV patients facilitates the transmission of HIV by increasing viral replication.”

There are 88 million new cases of gonorrhea each year. Wetzler is confident in his team’s ability to create an effective vaccine against the disease. He has written more than 50 publications, many of which focused on Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitides, the pathogens that cause gonorrhea and meningitis.

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