A vaccine developed by researchers at Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics has the potential to treat and prevent toxic shock caused by streptococcal disease. The invasive disease kills more than 160 thousand people every year.
“Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) is an acute condition like meningococcus,” program leader and laboratory head Professor Michael Good said. “If exposed to the organism you can be dead within days, so we’re hopeful that what we’ve discovered can help save lives.”
Invasive streptococcal disease and toxic shock are increasing in prevalence around the world, particularly among disadvantaged populations. According to lead researcher Dr Manisha Pandey, streptococcus (Strep A) belongs to the same bacteria group that causes common, non-life-threatening and easily spread ailments such as school sores and tonsillitis.
However, in about one in 100 cases, the organism enters the body and becomes the invasive and potentially life-threatening streptococcal disease (ISD).
Mortality rates exceed 25 per cent in even the best-equipped treatment facilities. STSS occurs when a toxin made by the Strep A organism binds to a human protein on certain cells and activates T-cells in the immune system that prompt a cytokine or highly inflammatory response. This agitates white blood cells which then release potent immune hormones that can result in death.
The international research team used a transgenic (DNA altered genes) mouse model develop a world-first STSS vaccine candidate. Known as J8, it showed a 1000 to 1 million-fol reduction of the bacterial burden in the spleen and blood after infection.
“About four years ago, we became aware of a cluster of bad cases of streptococcal infection resulting in a couple of deaths due to invasive streptococcal disease and toxic shock,” Professor Good said. “We were looking at a vaccine candidate to prevent streptococcal infections. At the time we were looking at it to prevent rheumatic heart disease, which is also caused by Strep A, and thought that the vaccine might prevent streptococcal toxic shock.”