New vaccine could save thousands of lives

February 29, 2016

Work led by University of Exeter experts could help to protect thousands of people from an often fatal disease found in most tropical regions.

Academics have created a vaccine which has the potential to protect humans from the infection melioidosis, also called Whitmore's disease.

The vaccine is the result of two decades of research, and is the most protective tested to date.

Melioidosis is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. It is thought to be spread in soil and dust, but experts do not yet know why it only affects people and animals in . Occasionally people from the UK have contracted melioidosis while on holiday abroad.

There is an urgent need for an effective vaccine. In North-East Thailand melioidosis is the third most common cause of death from infectious diseases, exceeded only by HIV and tuberculosis. In Darwin, Northern Australia, melioidosis is the most common cause of fatal community-acquired septicemic pneumonia.

Melioidosis typically causes pneumonia and sepsis, and because these symptoms are similar to many other diseases it is often misdiagnosed. This means rates of people affected could be much higher than officially recorded.

The condition is hard to treat as B. pseudomallei is resistant to many antibiotics. Antibiotic courses lasting several months are usually required and patients often relapse.

Potential vaccines have been tested before, but none provided high level protection. Other vaccines against the disease tested on animals have given protection against the acute form of the disease but have failed to provide long-term control of persistent, chronic melioidosis.

Advances in technology mean experts at the University of Exeter have now been able to produce a vaccine which could help give humans protection against the disease. Preliminary studies have been carried out on mice, and it is hoped clinical trials on humans will take place in the future.

The vaccine is made up of a combination of different proteins, some of which help produce antibodies which boosts the immune system. However, unlike other melioidosis vaccines that have been tested previously, some of the proteins in the new induce immune responses to provide enhanced protection against chronic infection.

Professor Richard Titball, Professor of Molecular Microbiology, said: "Because of new technology we have been able to look at the genetic makeup of the bacterium and start to understand how the bacteria adapt to conditions during chronic infection.

"We now want to carry out further work to determine whether one or more of the proteins are responsible for this enhanced protection, and to test additional proteins to see if they can be protective antigens."

Academics from the University of Milan, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine were involved in the study, which was funded by the Fondazione CARIPLO, one of the world's main philanthropic organizations.

Immunisation with proteins expressed during chronic murine melioidosis provides enhanced protection against disease is published in the journal Vaccine.

Explore further: Deadly bacteria more prevalent than previously thought: study

Related Stories

Deadly bacteria more prevalent than previously thought: study

January 11, 2016
An often deadly and difficult to treat bacterial disease is much more prevalent than previously thought and kills tens of thousands of people worldwide each year, researchers said Monday.

Researcher's surprising finding could lead to glanders vaccine

October 19, 2012
(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.

Recommended for you

Scientists develop infection model for tickborne flaviviruses

August 22, 2017
National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists have filled a research gap by developing a laboratory model to study ticks that transmit flaviviruses, such as Powassan virus. Powassan virus was implicated in the death of a ...

Zika virus stifles pregnant women's weakened immune system to harm baby, study finds

August 21, 2017
The Zika virus, linked to congenital birth defects and miscarriages, suppresses a pregnant woman's immune system, enabling the virus to spread and increasing the chances an unborn baby will be harmed, a Keck School of Medicine ...

Fatty liver can cause damage to other organs via crosstalk

August 21, 2017
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is increasingly common. Approximately every third adult in industrialized countries has a morbidly fatty liver. This not only increases the risk of chronic liver diseases such as liver cirrhosis ...

Novel approach to track HIV infection

August 18, 2017
Northwestern Medicine scientists have developed a novel method of tracking HIV infection, allowing the behavior of individual virions—infectious particles—to be connected to infectivity.

Faulty gene linked to obesity in adults

August 18, 2017
Groundbreaking new research linking obesity and metabolic dysfunction to a problem in the energy generators in cells has been published by researchers from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University ...

Two lung diseases killed 3.6 million in 2015: study

August 17, 2017
The two most common chronic lung diseases claimed 3.6 million lives worldwide in 2015, according to a tally published Thursday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.


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.