Researchers from the University of Porto have developed a vaccine that simultaneously helps to prevent bacterial infections that cause diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia, septicaemia and, in some cases, death from septic shock.
The bacteria that cause the illnesses (‘Klebsiella pneumoniae’, ‘Escherichia coli’, ‘Streptococcus’ B, ‘Streptococcus pneumoniae’ and ‘Staphylococcus aureus’) are highly resistant strains and are “an enormous problem to public health”, researcher Pedro Madureira, from the Institute for Health Research and Innovation (i3S) of the University of Porto told Lusa News Agency.
“As soon as those bacteria infect the host they can release a molecule (a protein known as GAPDH)”, which makes them invisible to the immune system, “thus preventing the start of an immune response”, said Madureira, who is one of the founders of Immunethep, the company responsible for developing the vaccine.
“Without an adequate response from our immune system,” Madureira explained, the bacteria “quickly proliferate” in the bloodstream and in the infected organs, and can lead to these illnesses, considered to be “quite severe.”
“Although this vaccine is for everybody,” he said, there are individuals for whom “the incidence of infection is higher,” such as newborn babies, the elderly, people with type 1 diabetes, recently operated patients (heart or spinal operations) or with obstructive pulmonary disease, for example.
The researcher said the vaccine is “innovative” as, rather than inducing an immune response (production of antibodies) against the bacteria itself, it leads to a response that neutralises the GAPDH molecule, released by the bacteria, allowing the immune system to respond to the infection.
The vaccine, which has undergone laboratory trials with mice and rabbits, will move on to clinical trials in the fourth quarter of 2017, Madureira said.