ORANGE COUNTY, Calif., Oct. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis cause tens of thousands of deaths each year in the US alone. Existing vaccines only treat 13-23 of the more than 90 different strains of pneumococcus bacteria and while they are able to target the bacteria in the body, they're not able to differentiate which bacteria it is destroying. Not all the bacteria are bad and most are actually harmless to humans.
Some bacteria even enhance the body's immune system. This means that the vaccine would attack all bacteria, good and bad, possibly leading to a microbial imbalance. This would prolong recovery because the body would not be fully recovered until all of the good bacteria that was destroyed returns.
Blaine Pfeifer, who led the study, has said the vaccine bacteria is programmed to only attack pneumococcus bacteria that are harmful, not disturbing those that help maintain the body's microbial balance. Aside from improving existing vaccines, Pfeifer hopes to reduce the use of antibiotics to treat pneumococcal disease.
Pneumococcal bacteria illnesses are routinely treated with antibiotics, but the effectiveness of that treatment has decreased over the years due to bacteria developing resistance to the drugs. This resistance has formed because of the knowledge gap that exists with antibiotic resistant genes, more and more people are misusing the drugs, and helping resistant genes grow stronger. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released that 30% of the 34,000 cases of pneumococcal disease were resistant to at least one or more types of antibiotics.
The new vaccine has hopes to reduce antibiotic use through an active antigen that enhances current vaccines by defending against bacterial serotypes that cause pneumococcal disease. Currently the vaccine has only been tested through animal testing and computer modeling, but the team is planning to conduct human trials soon.
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