University of Iowa researchers have developed a new vaccine to protect against Staphylococcus-caused pneumonia, and they hope it will be preventing illnesses and saving lives in as soon as two years.
The vaccine targets infections caused by Staphylococus aureus bacteria, commonly called staph, including drug-resistant strains like MRSA that kill thousands of Americans every year. Because some influenza-related deaths are caused by secondary staph infections, the new vaccine also could lessen the impact of the seasonal flu, said UI professor Patrick Schlievert, chair of microbiology in the UI Carver College of Medicine who led the vaccination research.
“We could bring the flu death rate down to near zero,” Schlievert said.
Findings of the UI-led research were published this month in the Journal of Infectious Disease and in a blog for Science magazine. Schlievert said the next step is to approach the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about beginning a safety study in the coming months.
A clinical trial would follow ” possibly by the end of 2014 or early 2015, Schlievert said. Ideally, he said, the new vaccine would be given with the Tdap shot, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
“I would like to see it available in two years,” he said.
Staph bacteria are the most significant cause of serious infection and infection-linked fatalities in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 70,000 Americans develop staphylococcal pneumonia every year, many of whom die.
Prior attempts at a vaccine have failed, Schlievert said, and people continue to get sick and die.
“There is a huge need for the vaccine,” he said. “So can we move this forward faster than slower?”
The new vaccine works by targeting toxins produced by staph and responsible for serious and sometimes deadly infection symptoms like fever, low blood pressure and toxic shock. The UI-led research analyzed whether a vaccine could block the action of the toxins and prevent the illness.
Researchers used an animal model of staph infection that resembled a human one and found that vaccination against three staph toxins provided “almost complete protection against staph infections,” according to UI News Services. The animals in the study were protected from illness even when given high doses of bacteria directly in their lungs,