Biochemists at the University of California, San Diego have made a discovery that could lead to a vaccine against flesh-eating bacteria.
According to a press release by UC San Diego, researchers discovered hidden sequence patterns in the outer protein coat of group A Strep.
The study was published Nature Microbiology.
“At present, there is no vaccine against group A Streptococcus, and our discovery of hidden sequence patterns has offered up a novel way to devise such a vaccine,” said Partho Ghosh, chair of UC San Diego’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Ghosh headed the team of researchers who made the discovery.
He said the biggest obstacle in developing a vaccine for the group A Strep is the “hyper-variability” of the protein. Different strains of the flesh-eating bacteria have different proteins on their surface. But since the body’s immune system has to respond with specific antibodies for each different strain, patients are more vulnerable to the infection.
Researchers were able to study the structures of four different protein types that were bound to a human protein called C4BP and found a common sequence pattern among all of them.
“The idea now is to have antibodies do the same thing as C4BP — that is, recognize many different M protein types,” Ghosh said. “That way, the antibody response will not be limited to one M protein type and one strain of group A Strep, but will extend to most, if not all, M protein types and most, if not all strains, of group A Strep.”
Now, researchers are working to develop a vaccine that they hope will protect against most, if not all, strains of the flesh-eating bacteria.
According the UC San Diego press release, more than 500,000 people die every year from the highly infectious bacteria.