Vaccine for Deadly Childhood Infection in the Works
What the scientists did was to map out the entire genetic sequence, or
genome, of one strain of the bacteria, identifying every bit of the more than 2
million pieces of paired DNA that make the bacteria what it is. They then went
through the entire library of genetic information they had assembled and
identified at least seven proteins that most versions of the bacteria wear like
ID badges on their outer shells. These proteins could tip off circulating
antibodies to the presence of the bacteria, allowing the antibodies to marshal
their resources and close in on the perpetrators.
But, as a researcher who has worked with drug companies on developing other
meningitis vaccines tells WebMD, the proof of the pudding will come in clinical
trials of vaccines that incorporate one or more versions of the newly
"There's no evidence that these proteins are necessary for either
survival or [for causing disease], and what you might do is just delete out
these proteins and still have [disease-causing] strains," says Lee M.
Wetzler, MD, associate professor of medicine and microbiology at the Boston
University School of Medicine
The studies were supported by Chiron Corp, of Emeryville, Calif., which is
developing the group B meningitis vaccine.
- Scientists have mapped the entire genetic sequence of a strain of bacteria
responsible for most cases of bacterial meningitis and septicemia in the
- With this genetic map, researchers believe they will be able to develop an
effective vaccine against these often fatal diseases.
- Vaccines are available to protect adults against meningitis caused by other
strains of this bacteria, but this group B strain is particularly adept at
changing its shape, thereby eluding the immune system and making vaccine
targets difficult to identify.