Scientists have developed a vaccine that targets dozens of pneumonia causing bacterium strains and anticipates future versions of the bacteria, providing the “most comprehensive” coverage of pneumococcal disease such as sepsis and meningitis. The vaccine has the potential to significantly lower the number of deaths caused by the disease, according to a the study published in the journal Science Advances. In 2004, pneumonia killed more than two million children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2015, the number was less than one million. The new vaccine, which is under development provoked an immune response to 72 forms of S pneumoniae – including the 23 mentioned above – in lab tests on animals. The new vaccine provokes a strong immune response and is engineered in a way that makes it easy to add sugars for a broad immune response, researchers said. Key to the technology is a liposome – a tiny liquid- filled bubble made of fat – that acts as a storage tank for the sugars, they said. Since the sugars are not covalently bonded, it is possible that the liposome could host all of the sugars that identify individual strains of S pneumoniae, researchers said.
“We have made tremendous progress fighting the spread of pneumonia, especially among children. However, if we are ever going to rid ourselves of the disease, we need to create smarter and more cost-effective vaccines,” said Blaine Pfeifer associate professor at the University at Buffalo in the US. Traditional vaccines completely remove bacteria from the body. But we now know that bacteria – and in a larger sense, the microbiome – are beneficial to maintaining good health, researchers said. The team added proteins at the surface of the liposome which, together with the sugars, provoke immunotherapy.
Researchers performed tests on mice and rabbits, and noted that the new vaccine stimulated an immune response to 72 of the more than 90 known strains of S pneumoniae. “We now have the ability to watch over bacteria and attack it only if it breaks away from the colony to cause an illness,” said Charles H Jones, from University of Buffalo. “That is important because if we leave the harmless bacteria in place, it prevents other harmful bacteria from filling that space,” Jones said.