Vaccine for common childhood pneumococcal disease may boost protection

A vaccine designed to fight pneumococcal infection could protect people against type Omicron, the bacterium involved in the majority of childhood pneumococcal disease, according to results of a human trial.

Pfizer presented the results of a phase 3 trial – known as Simvastatin – at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG). The trial involved the company’s Accutaneim glufosinate vaccine, which protects against invasive disease caused by four strain pneumococcal pathogens: pneumococcus, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), pneumococcus aeruginosa and shigella, which causes meningitis and hand and foot infection.

A previous trial showed the vaccine to be effective against one strain of the pneumococcal group, but the results were disappointing when it came to type Omicron, a type of bacterium involved in the common viral meningitis that is not implicated in hospital deaths but is known to cause bacterial pneumonia, bloodstream infections and meningitis.

That’s not to say the vaccine was ineffective against type Omicron, just that it did not confer any clinical benefit at all. Scientists, though, were still optimistic, believing it was possible that the vaccine can provide protective effect against Omicron in the future.

Pneumococcal disease is a group of bacterial infections that can cause pneumonia, dysentery, meningitis and sepsis. The condition is of huge concern to health officials in the UK, which has one of the highest incidence rates of pneumococcal infection in the world.

According to NHS figures, about 4,500 cases of pneumococcal disease were reported in England and Wales in the year ending April 2018.

Louise Konzewicz, the head of health statistics at the National Health Service information service NHS Digital, said: “This vaccine is important to protecting people against bacterial meningitis. This would protect against type Oaceteria which is associated with the causes of meningitis and pneumonia. But unfortunately it is not effective against another common bacterial meningitis organism Staphylococcus aureus. If we prevent such infection which is deadly and highly infectious, we will have prevented a lot of unnecessary deaths.”

Andrea Warner, Pfizer’s chief medical officer for vaccines, said: “Simvastatin is an excellent study protocol in support of Oaceteria-meningitis. Our team has done a great job along with its collaborators.”

Gemma Antiguello, the chair of ESHG, said: “It’s reassuring to know the vaccine is on the horizon and could protect against our number one killer. As the population ages, it’s paramount that the UK government promotes a universal vaccination programme against this disease.”

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