Researchers are developing a new super vaccine called G-PN that is powerful enough to battle all 90 known strains of pneumococcal disease, a bacterial infection that can lead to pneumonia and other diseases.
Pneumococcal resistance to antimicrobials is a severe and rapidly increasing global problem.
The new super vaccine is inactivated by exposure to gamma irradiation and was developed by a research team from the University of Adelaide, in South Australia. G-PN is capable of preventing disease caused by all serotypes of pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae).
James Paton, lead investigator, believes G-PN could increase the immune response to pneumococcus since it keeps the protein surfaces’ antigenic structure on the bacterium. The researchers published a paper on G-PN in the journal Clinical Science earlier this year. The article was titled “Intranasal vaccination with γ-irradiated Streptococcus pneumoniae whole-cell vaccine provides serotype-independent protection mediated by B-cells and innate IL-17 responses.”
“Pneumococcus is a big deal in terms of disease and it is the biggest bacterial killer on the planet. There are currently similar wholesale vaccines being developed, which have used chemical killing but that is nowhere near as good. The fact that gamma radiation is being used to inactivate it makes it a better vaccine,” Patton said in a press release. “The thing about the conjugate vaccines – the currently licensed ones – is that they only cover 13 serotypes of pneumococcus. Whilst it has been effective, now you have other strains becoming much more common. Our vaccine is unique because it protects against all strains of the bacterium. It has gone beyond the basic science of antigen discovery.”
Paton said the team worked to co-administer G-PN with a gamma-irradiated influenza (flu) vaccine. Gamma rays are used to identify and break down the pneumococcal bacterium’s DNA strands to ensure that the bug is no longer viable and can no longer replicate. Gamma rays also leave proteins on the surface of the bug intact which is critical for allowing the human immune system to identify them.
The researchers are waiting for a response from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) regarding a funding application which could pay for the completion of pre-clinical studies.
“Once you have the flu though you are more susceptible to pneumococcal disease and you are more likely to have the disease kill you,” Paton said. “Not only can we prevent all types of pneumococcal serotypes but when we combine it with the flu vaccine we get even better protection against pneumococcus as well as protection against flu. We are collaborating with a small spinout company to do this and at the moment it is still in the laboratory stage. We are waiting to hear the outcome of funding which would help us achieve the last steps we would need.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), young children and the elderly are at higher risk for the 90 known strains of pneumococcal disease. It is estimated to cause about 1 million deaths per year among children worldwide.