Strep A vaccine on the horizon after scientists discover antibody that fights the infectionThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
A vaccine that protects against Step A could be on the horizon after scientists made a breakthrough in understanding how the body fights bacteria.
Strep A usually causes a mild infection, such as strep throat, impetigo and scarlet fever. But in extremely rare cases, it can lead to a fatal disease. He has killed 24 children in the UK in recent months.
As it stands, the infection can easily be treated with antibiotics if caught in time. However, if the bacteria became resistant to the drugs, it would pose a “major threat to public health,” experts said.
But Swedish researchers have now discovered an antibody that fights the Strep A bacteria in an unusual way, which they say could be key to developing a vaccine.
Swedish researchers have now discovered an antibody that fights the Strep A bacteria in an unusual way, which they say could be key to developing a vaccine
Strep A is a bacteria that can cause throat, skin and respiratory infections. If the infection is not treated, it can cause serious complications. Ear infections, toxic shock syndrome, and kidney inflammation are complications that can occur
Researchers at Lund University examined the blood of patients who had recovered from a severe strep infection to determine how their immune systems fought off the bacteria.
They mapped the antibodies their bodies produced when they were unwell from strep A.
This allowed them to spot those that could be used for drugs or vaccines once an infection had occurred.
So far, researchers using this method have been unable to develop antibody-based treatments that work against Strep A, according to the team.
However, the Swedish group discovered an antibody that works in a “rare” way against Strep A that “has never been described before” and “may explain why so many vaccine attempts have failed.”
The antibodies are shaped like the letter Y. What they noticed, called Ab25, uses its two “arms” to attach to two different parts of a protein on the surface of the Strep A bacteria — called the M protein.
Where this unique process was noticed, the body was able to mount a strong response to the bacteria.
Normally, antibodies use one arm to bind to one site, the researchers said. But this process is ineffective against Streptococcus A.
Dr. Wael Bahnan, an immunologist in Lund and one of the authors of the study, said: “This opens up possibilities where previous vaccine attempts have failed and means that the monoclonal antibody we used has the potential to protect against infection.”
The team conducted further tests on the antibody in animals and found that it was able to produce a “strong immune response against the bacteria”.
They have now applied for a patent based on their findings published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicineand hopefully the antibody will eventually lead to treatments and vaccines for strep A.
Study author Professor Pontus Nordenfelt said: “Normally, an antibody binds via one of its two Y arms to its target protein at a single site, regardless of which of the two arms is used to bind.
Although the majority of infections are relatively mild, in extremely rare cases the bacteria can cause invasive group A strep (iGAS)
Strep A bacteria can cause a number of other infections, including impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat
“But what we saw—and this is vital information—is that the two Y arms can recognize and attach to two different sites on the same target protein.”
It comes after the UK’s Health Safety Agency confirmed last week that another five children had died from strep A – bringing the total to 24 since September.
The majority of cases were in England (21), followed by Wales (2) and Northern Ireland (1).
Although small, the number of children in the UK who have died from strep A is higher than expected at this time of year.
Twenty-seven people under the age of 18 died from the bug throughout the last bad season, in 2017/18.
Streptococcus bacteria can cause a number of infections. While the majority of these are relatively mild, in extremely rare cases the bacteria can cause invasive group A strep (iGAS).
Two of the most severe forms of this invasive disease are necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. Both can kill.
Figures show iGAS cases are now up to five times higher than last winter – which was unusually quiet.
An increase in iGAS cases usually occurs every three to four years, but social distancing during the Covid pandemic is thought to have broken this cycle.
Some experts suggest that this has left some youngsters with reduced immunity to Strep A – with a large number of children never having encountered the bacteria in their lifetime.
High levels of other respiratory viruses — including influenza, RSV and norovirus — may also put children at higher risk of strep A co-infections, making them more susceptible to severe illness, the World Health Organization said.
Last week, experts revealed that there were five times more penicillin prescriptions dispensed than in the previous three weeks.
They said some forms of antibiotics could be placed on a “shortage protocol” to allow pharmacists to give worried parents alternatives, rather than forcing them to round different pharmacies or return to the GP to request a new prescription.
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From the ‘bubbly’ seven-year-old whose father desperately tried to save her with CPR to the four-year-old who loved to explore: Strep A victims so far
Muhammad Ibrahim Ali
The four-year-old attends Oakridge School and Nursery in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
He died at his home of cardiac arrest in mid-November after contracting Strep A.
He was prescribed antibiotics.
His mother Shabana Kusar said this Bucks Free Press: “The loss is great and nothing will replace it.
“He was very helpful around the house and quite adventurous, he loved to explore and enjoyed forest school, his best day was Monday and he said Monday was the best day of the week.
Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, who attended Oakridge School and Nursery in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, died after contracting a bacterial infection
The “sizzling” and “beautiful” seven-year-old is the only child to die from strep A in Wales so far.
Her devastated parents told how their “hearts were broken into a million pieces”.
The first signs of infection are mild. Hanna’s father Abul took his daughter to the GP after the cough worsened during the night.
She was prescribed steroids and sent home, but she died less than 12 hours later.
Mr Roap recalled how he desperately tried to resuscitate his child: “She stopped breathing at 8pm but we didn’t know straight away because she was sleeping.
“I did CPR, I tried to revive her but it didn’t work. Paramedics arrived and continued CPR, but it was too late.
Mr Rope said the family were “absolutely devastated” and were awaiting answers from the hospital.
The family believes she may have been alive if she had been given antibiotics initially.
Hannah Roap, who attended Victoria Primary School in Penarth, Wales, died after contracting strep A last month. Her family say they have been “traumatized” by her death
Five-year-old Stella-Lily McCokindale died after contracting strep A, the first death from the infection in Northern Ireland.
She died on December 5 in Belfast Royal Infirmary.
In a tribute on social media, her father Robert said the couple had “loved every minute” of being together as they rode a scooter and bike.
“If prayers and thoughts and feelings and love could work, she would walk out of that hospital holding her father’s hand,” he said.
Stella-Lily attended Black Mountain Primary School, which said she was a “bright and talented girl” and described her death as a “tragic loss”.
Five-year-old Stella-Lily McCokindale, who attended Black Mountain Primary School in Belfast, died in early December after contracting strep A
Jax Albert Jeffries
A five-year-old boy who died of strep A was misdiagnosed as having the flu, his family said.
Jax Albert Jeffries of Waterlooville, Hampshire, died on December 1.
His mother Charlene told how she sought medical advice three times in the four days before Jax’s death and was told he was suffering from influenza A. She described Jax as a “cheeky little boy”.
Later tests revealed that he actually had Strep A.
Jax Albert Jeffries, a five-year-old from Waterlooville, Hampshire, died on December 1 of Strep A
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