New vaccine protects against lethal pneumonia caused by staph bacteria

by Jennifer L. Brown

University of Iowa researchers have developed a new vaccine that protects against lethal pneumonia caused by Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria, including drug-resistant strains like MRSA.

The research team was led by Patrick Schlievert, professor and chair of microbiology in the UI Carver College of Medicine. The findings are published this week in the Journal of Infectious Disease.

The new targets toxins that are made and secreted by . Earlier work by Schlievert's team found these toxins are responsible for the serious, sometimes deadly, symptoms produced by staph infections, including high fever, , and toxic shock. The researchers believed a vaccine that blocked the action of these toxins might prevent the serious illness caused by the bacteria.

Using an animal model that closely resembles human staph infection, the researchers showed that vaccination against three staph toxins provided almost complete protection against staph infections. The vaccinated animals were protected from disease even when they were infected with very high doses of bacteria. Furthermore, not only did the vaccine protect the animals from dying, but seven days after vaccination there were no disease-causing bacteria remaining in the animals' lungs.

"Our study suggests that vaccination against these toxins may provide protection against all strains of staph," Schlievert says. "If we can translate this finding into an effective vaccine for people it could potentially prevent millions of cases of serious and milder skin and yearly."

The team also found that passive immunization—using serum from vaccinated animals to immunize other animals—was successful. This finding suggests that antibodies induced by the vaccination are the protective factor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria are the most significant cause of serious infections and infection-related deaths in the Unites States. These bacteria cause many kinds of infections, from boils and other skin infections to life-threatening pneumonias and sepsis. Approximately 70,000 Americans develop staphylococcal pneumonia every year, including cases caused by highly antibiotic resistant MRSA strains. Many of these patients die from their illness, and many require extensive convalescence.

Previous attempts to develop vaccines have targeted proteins on the surface of staph bacteria, but these vaccines have not been successful. In the current study, Schlievert and his colleagues found that vaccination against bacterial cell-surface proteins actually increased the severity of the infection. In contrast, the new vaccine, which targets toxins, provided almost complete protection against .

Related Stories

Bacterial toxins cause deadly heart disease

date Aug 20, 2013

University of Iowa researchers have discovered what causes the lethal effects of staphylococcal infective endocarditis - a serious bacterial infection of heart valves that kills approximately 20,000 Americans each year.

'Nanosponge vaccine' fights MRSA toxins

date Dec 01, 2013

Nanosponges that soak up a dangerous pore-forming toxin produced by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) could serve as a safe and effective vaccine against this toxin. This "nanosponge vaccin ...

Researchers find link to severe Staph infections

date Dec 23, 2008

Researchers at The University of Texas School of Public Health recently described studies that support the link between the severity of community-acquired antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA MRSA) infections and th ...

Recommended for you

US Ebola patient's health improves again

date 53 minutes ago

An American healthcare worker who contracted the dangerous Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone has improved and is now listed in fair condition, hospital officials said Monday.

Endoscopes linked to outbreak of drug-resistant E. coli

date 1 hour ago

An outbreak of a novel Escherichia coli (E. coli) strain resistant to antibiotics has been linked to contaminated endoscopes in a Washington state hospital. The study indicates that industry standard clea ...

Fighting back against superbugs

date 3 hours ago

Antibiotics—and antibiotic resistance—are in the news once again, with announcements by McDonald's and Costco that they will eliminate antibiotics that are important to human medicine from use in the ...

Harnessing the power of microbes as therapeutics

date 4 hours ago

A new report recently released by the American Academy of Microbiology discusses how specific microbes can be modified to enhance their therapeutic potential for treating human diseases such as cancer and antibiotic resistant ...

New genetic link found for alcohol-related liver cirrhosis

date 4 hours ago

In most people, any liver damage that might occur from drinking alcohol is reversible. However, in 25 to 30 percent of alcoholics what begins as accumulation of fat in the liver progresses to inflammation, fibrosis and ultimately ...

Could camel antibodies protect humans from MERS?

date 4 hours ago

Antibodies from dromedary camels protected uninfected mice from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and helped infected mice expunge the disease, according to a study published online March 18th in the ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.