City ex­perts to work on vac­cine for menin­gi­tis


Re­searchers from the city are set to de­velop a vac­cine that will pro­tect mil­lions of chil­dren af­flicted with blood and brain in­fec­tions in sub-Sa­ha­ran African coun­tries, among many other re­gions of the world.

The new con­ju­gate vac­cine will help fight in­va­sive non-ty­phoidal Sal­mo­nella, a bac­terium that is a ma­jor cause of blood in­fec­tions, or sep­ti­caemia, and in­fec­tions of the cov­er­ings of the brain (menin­gi­tis). About 25 per cent chil­dren in­fected by this bac­terium die, say ex­perts.

There is no vac­cine avail­able at present to pre­vent this emerg­ing health prob­lem. It be­longs to the group of bac­te­ria that causes prob­lems such as ty­phoid, acute gas­troen­teri­tis, food poi­son­ing and blood in­fec­tion. Non-ty­phoidal Salmo-

The vac­cine tech­nol­ogy to be adopted is based on chem­i­cally link­ing two pieces from bac­te­rial cell

nella is dis­tinct within this group of bac­te­ria — it does not cause ty­phoid in hu­mans but is ca­pable of in­fect­ing the meninges and blood.

Bharat Biotech and Univer­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for Vac­cine De­vel­op­ment will work on test­ing the vac­cine in early clin­i­cal tri­als in the US. Dr Kr­ishna Ella, chair­man, Bharat Biotech, said the re­search team plans to come out with a con­ju­gated in­jectable vac­cine soon.

The vac­cine tech­nol­ogy to be adopted by the team is based on chem­i­cally link­ing two pieces from the bac­te­rial cell: sugar that coats the cell sur­face, and a pro­tein de­rived from the fla­gella struc­ture that al­lows the bac­te­ria to swim. Ac­cord­ing to the ex­perts in­volved, the vac­cine is de­signed to stim­u­late the hu­man body to pro­duce an­ti­bod­ies (pro­tec­tive pro­teins) in blood to pre­vent NTS dis­ease.

NTS is highly adapted to the eco­log­i­cal con­di­tions and its ex­act mode of trans­mis­sion is un­clear. Ex­perts said it is also turn­ing re­sis­tant to avail­able medicines, mak­ing it an im­por­tant can­di­date for early de­vel­op­ment of vac­cine as a pre­ven­tive tool.

Dr Ella said, “An ad­van­tage with this pro­ject is the part­ner­ship be­tween academia and in­dus­try, in trans­lat­ing ba­sic sci­ence re­search into po­ten­tial com­mer­cial-scale vac­cines that could save lives.”

The Well­come Trust is fund­ing the pro­ject.

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