New approach: a deadly superbug vaccine developed

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Bacteria rapidly develop resistance to antibiotics , resulting in the appearance of so-called super bacteria, for example, strains of the bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae. Recently, specialists from the School of Medicine at Washington University have developed and tested a vaccine on mice that protects against the most dangerous, hypervirulent strains of this bacterium.

Let us explain that K. pneumoniae is one of the causative agents of pneumonia, as well as urogenital infections, purulent abscesses of the liver and spleen. Often this particular bacterium is the culprit of nosocomial infection of patients. Recently, researchers even accused hospitals of spreading these dangerous microbes.

The main problem is that some K. pneumoniae strains have developed resistance to carbapenem antibiotics. We are talking about medicines that are considered the “last line of defense” in the treatment of infections caused by K. pneumoniae.

What is especially important, this bacterium is practically immune to all other medicines. In other words, as soon as carbapenems cease to be effective against these bacteria, there simply are no other treatment options.

As explained co-author David Rosen, for a long time, this type of bacteria, and even interfered with their treatment of infections resistant to drugs, but did not represent a threat to the larger population.

“Now we see that Klebsiella strains, which are quite dangerous, can lead to death or cause serious illness in healthy people,” Rosen notes, adding that in recent years hypervirulent strains of this bacterium that are resistant to medications have begun to appear, and it is very dangerous.

According to a press release from the study, last year Klebsiella hypervirulent strains caused tens of thousands of infections in China, South Korea and Taiwan, and, most dangerous, these bacteria spread around the world, and medicines can hardly cope with them. For this reason, the researchers chose the tactics of “forewarned – means armed.”

They developed a vaccine against the most common hypervirulent Klebsiella strains – K1 and K2.

As with any vaccine, the idea was to train the patient’s immune system to recognize “enemies” and be prepared to fight them.

Since the outer surface of the bacteria is coated with sugars, scientists have developed a glycoconjugate vaccine consisting of these sugars associated with a particular protein. The latter helps the vaccine work more efficiently.

By the way, such vaccines have already proven effective in protecting people from fatal diseases such as bacterial meningitis and typhoid fever.

To speed up the process of chemical synthesis, the researchers genetically modified a harmless strain of Escherichia coli, which produced the necessary proteins and sugars. Then they used another bacterial enzyme to bind these proteins and sugars together.

The development team tested on mice.

Three groups, each of which had 20 animals, scientists gave different doses of the vaccine with an interval of two weeks. As usual, the fourth group of rodents was a control, they received a placebo.

After that, the experts introduced K1 or K2 bacteria into the organism of mice and observed the reaction of rodent organisms.

From the placebo group, only 20% of mice infected with K1 and 70% of rodents infected with K2 were able to survive.

The results of the vaccinated mice were much more encouraging: 80% of the animals infected with K1 were able to survive, and all 100% of the mice infected with K2.

“We are very pleased with how effective this vaccine,” says the first author of Mario Feldman ( by Mario Feldman ).

In the near future, researchers intend to test the vaccine in humans.

A research article published in the PNAS publication.


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