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Boise State Researchers Create Promising Vaccine for Staph Infection

By: Communications Admin   Published 12:27 pm / October 24, 2011

Staphylococcus aureus

Boise State researchers have created a new vaccine that shows high promise in preventing Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that can cause a range of illnesses such as skin infections and pneumonia.

Each year, nearly 500,000 Americans are admitted to hospitals for staph infections. Research shows that more than 50 percent of those are from methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA, which is resistant to current antibiotics.

“Staph is a significant public health threat and is the leading cause of opportunistic infection worldwide,” study co-author Juliette Tinker, assistant professor of biological sciences . “Furthermore, MRSA infections, which were previously considered a threat only in hospitals and other health care facilities, are now the known cause of life-threatening multidrug-resistant infections out in the community.”

Boise State biology scientists created a vaccine that uses a cholera toxin molecule called A2/B chimera, which also contains an iron-regulated surface determinant from S. aureus, that was given to mice through the nose. The researchers believed that these stable chimeric molecules with unique binding properties would provide immunity to staph infections. The results supported this theory and showed that the new vaccine could induce significant immunity to staph in mice when delivered through the nose.

The results appear online in the journal Clinical and Vaccine Immunology.

Juliette Tinker

“We knew that a successful vaccine against staph would have to contain a combination of antigens,” Tinker said. “Staph is a very complex bacteria that has a lot of proteins on the surface that change frequently, so we picked one that seemed to be present in many of the strains of staph. We knew only incorporating one or two proteins into a vaccine wasn’t enough, we needed many.”

Tinker and her research team studied the immune response in 24 mice that were given the vaccine they created and measured how many antibodies the mice produced against staph over 45 days. The results showed the mice had a significant number of antibodies against staph, although a booster dose was needed after the 10th day.

Boise State researchers will now attempt to do a much larger protection study with mice to continue to measure the effectiveness of the vaccine.