STAPH INFECTION: Researchers Develop Breakthrough Vaccine
In a landmark development that could prevent the most common cause of bacterial infections in hospitals, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital have formulated a vaccine against a staphyloccos aureus microbe that has proved increasingly resistant to antibiotics, even "last line of defense" vancomycin, the AP/Detroit Free Press reports. After isolating PNSG, a molecule produced by staph once it has infected the body, researchers injected a purified version into mice and rabbits, all of which subsequently survived "double-lethal" doses of drug-resistant staph. In contrast, 80% of the mice that were not given PNSG died of infection (Recer, 5/28). "Our findings are very timely because the resilient 'superbug' staph infections threaten to return medicine to the pre-antibiotic era where little could be done for patients with serious bacterial infections," said Gerald Pier, co-author of the study, which appears in the May 28 issue of Science. The study marks the first time a vaccine has been developed using bacterial antigens developed in the body, rather than the lab (Brigham and Women's Hospital release, 5/27).
Currently, 500,000 U.S. hospital patients die each year of staph infections, typically contracted during heart-valve surgery, knee and hip replacements and dialysis. Staph can also lead to meningitis, heart and bone infections, skin abscesses and pneumonia. Pier, who noted that human trials are expected to begin in 18 months, said he expects the vaccine would be used to protect surgical patients and those at "high risk of burns or wounds, such as firefighters, police officers and soldiers" (AP/Detroit Free Press, 5/28).