Aussies to test golden staph vaccine
February 25, 2010 - 12:09AM
Australian scientists are developing a potential "blockbuster" vaccine that could protect against golden staph, a leading source of infection in the world's hospitals.
A major human trial is now getting under way, and more than 400 healthy volunteers are sought across the country to test how their bodies respond to the prototype vaccine.
Dr Peter Richmond said the bacteria, otherwise named Staphylococcus aureus, was posing a rising challenge to health authorities as antibiotic-resistant strains were now commonplace in hospitals and health care facilities.
There were was also signs these superbug variants were circulating in the community, he said, and a vaccine that could prevent serious infections would help to save lives the world over.
"This is the first time (the prototype vaccine) has been used in man," Perth-based Dr Richmond also told AAP on Wednesday.
"What we'll hopefully find out is what sort of boost to immunity the vaccine gives and whether or not it could stop you carrying this bug."
Dr Richmond said between 20 and 40 per cent of the population were unknowing carriers of the bacteria which usually live benignly on the skin or in the nose.
These "colonised" people, and those who they newly exposed to the bacteria, had a risk of infection should they also suffer an accidental cut or be recovering from surgery.
This could result in serious complications like pneumonia or a potentially life threatening infection of the brain membrane, heart valves or bone marrow.
Surgical patients who contract a golden staph infection take three times longer to recover than normal, Dr Richmond also said, and this placed an extra load on over-stretched hospital systems.
He said if the vaccine could eventually be given to people ahead of their surgery.
"At the moment we don't really know how we're going to use it, but we do know that Staphylococcus aureus is a major problem," he said.
"It's very exciting really. Potentially this might be a way to prevent this very serious public health problem ... Potentially, this would be a blockbuster vaccine."
Dr Richmond is head of the Vaccine Trials Group at Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. The project also involves the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children and the University of WA's School of Paediatrics and Child Health.
The trial needs healthy volunteers in two age groups - 18 to 24 and 50 to 85 years.
Study participants will keep a diary of any symptoms over 12 months, and provide blood samples to show the level of protective antibodies generated by the vaccine.
© 2010 AAP