Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) may have discovered a path to a vaccine for two types of currently incurable step throat, thanks to a recent medical discovery.
"What we are discovering has gone unnoticed for nearly a century by researchers," said Victor Nizet, MD, a professor at UCSD.
According to Nizet, strep throat bacteria can lead to flesh-eating diseases in those with weak immune systems.
"There is one protein on the bacteria that breaks off when it enters the body," said Nizet. "The body's white blood cells explode to attack it, which causes inflammation."
This is why your throat often swells up when strep is present: because the body is fighting off the infection, Nizet explained.
"In patients with weakened immune systems, that very same inflammation can spin out of control and cause severe damage," said Nizet. "So that's what we're understanding. The battle between the host, meaning our immune systems, and this leading pathogen."
Nizet said this has gone unrecognized until now because scientists have been focused on studying the bacteria, not the protein that breaks off of it.
The discovery could lead to a change in the way vaccines are designed and a development for Strep Group A and Group B, which currently have no vaccines that efficiently fight them off.