Researcher's surprising finding could lead to glanders vaccine

Results from this western blot analysis suggest that B. thailandensis ATPK01 (lane 5) contains immunogens that would generate protective immunity against B. mallei infection.

(Medical Xpress)—Apichai Tuanyok dedicated several years to working on a bacterial pathogen in Canada, but his breakthrough occurred in Flagstaff with an unexpected finding on a routine lab report.

Although the Tuanyok is investigating at Northern Arizona University is closely related to, but not the same, as the one he had researched in Canada, the results felt like a payoff for all the effort.

"I emailed many people that day," Tuanyok said, recalling his excitement at the lab report filed by his graduate student. What Tuanyok wrote in the email was that he possibly had found a vaccine target for glanders, a severe infectious disease that is usually limited to horses and donkeys but has potential as a biowarfare agent.  

Follow-up tests at NAU's Center for and Genomics (MGGen), where Tuanyok is an assistant research professor of biological sciences, have convinced Tuanyok that "we have the right target, but we have to identify further what bacterial species would be a good candidate" for an effective vaccine.

What Tuanyok found was that a common known as ATPK 1 plays a role in generating against glanders infection, with a 70 percent survival rate among infected .

Glanders, caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei, occurs in several countries in the Middle East, Mediterranean and South America. Human infection is uncommon but when it occurs, the bacterium is highly antibiotic resistant. No vaccine currently exists.

The Department of Defense has taken an interest because the bacterium, in aerosolized form, could be used as a bioweapon. During the , it is believed that Germany used methods to spread glanders intentionally, infecting Russian horses and mules used by the military. It was also used by the Japanese in .

Tuanyok is working on a manuscript with Paul Keim, NAU Regents' professor and director of MGGen, to describe the research and hopefully generate more funding.

It was Keim, in fact, who brought Tuanyok to the MGGen lab based on his work with melioidosis, a tropical disease that claims thousands of lives each year in Tuanyok's native Thailand. The bacterium behind that disease, Burkholderia pseudomallei, was still Tuanyok's focus when he first arrived at NAU in 2006. He may yet return to it.

"The vaccine we're working on may not be used for another disease," Tuanyok said, "but I have another idea for melioidosis and I may be able to do some work in parallel."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gene against bacterial attack unravelled

Oct 28, 2008

Dutch researcher Joost Wiersinga from AMC Medical Center in Amsterdam has unravelled a genetic defense mechanism against the lethal bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei. The research is the next step towards a vaccine against ...

Recommended for you

Sierra Leone streets deserted as shutdown begins

50 minutes ago

Sierra Leone's normally chaotic capital was transformed on Friday as residents were confined to their homes for the start of a three-day lockdown aimed at halting the deadly Ebola epidemic.

Sierra Leone launches controversial Ebola shutdown

2 hours ago

Sierra Leone on Friday launched a controversial three-day shutdown to contain the deadly spread of the Ebola virus, as the UN Security Council declared the deadly outbreak a threat to world peace.

Cooling of dialysis fluids protects against brain damage

15 hours ago

While dialysis can cause blood pressure changes that damage the brain, cooling dialysis fluids can protect against such effects. The findings come from a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American So ...

Two Ebola vaccines to be tested in Switzerland

15 hours ago

Clinical trials of two experimental vaccines against the deadly Ebola virus are due to begin soon in Switzerland, the country's Tropical and Public Health Institute said on Thursday.

User comments