After scientists made a true breakthrough in finally understanding how the body can fight off the Strep A bacteria, we are closer than ever to developing a vaccine against it.
As you may be aware, Strep A usually only causes a rather mind infection such as impetigo, scarlet fever or strep throat.
However, in some rare cases, it can also lead to a lethal disease that has actually taken the young lives of no less than 24 children in the United Kingdom alone in the last few months.
If caught early, the Strep A infection can be treated quite easily using antibiotics.
But if the bacteria becomes resistant to drugs, it could become a “major public health threat,” according to experts.
Thankfully, some Swedish researchers have discovered an antibody able to fight off Strep A bacteria in a rather unusual way that might be the secret to finally creating an effective vaccine against it.
The research team from Lund University looked into the blood of patients previously diagnosed with a severe case of Strep A infection in the past.
The goal was to learn how their immune system was able to heal them from the bacteria, allowing them to recover.
This way, the experts were able to map the antibodies their bodies produced during that infection, allowing them to identify the ones they could use to make medicine or vaccines.
While this method has failed before, the Swedish group did manage to find an antibody that does work in a “rare” manner against the bacteria and which has “never been described before.”
They also noted that this “could explain why so many vaccine attempts have been unsuccessful.”
One of the study’s authors, Dr. Wael Bahnan, shared that “This opens up possibilities where older vaccine attempts have failed before and means that the monoclonal antibody we’ve used has the potential to protect against infection.”
Conducting more tests on this antibody in animals, the team of scientists found that it can produce “strong immune response against the bacteria.”
Now, they have applied for a patent based on the findings and published the research in the EMBO Molecular Medicine journal.
All that’s left for now is hope that this unique antibody will lead to effective Strep A medicine and life saving vaccines.
Fellow author Professor Pontus Nordenfelt shared that “Normally, an antibody binds via one of its 2 Y arms to its target protein at one single site, regardless of which of the 2 arms is used for binding. But what we’ve seen – and this is vital information – is that the 2 Y arms can recognise and hook onto two different places on the same target protein.”
This is some good news that comes only a week or so after the Health Security Agency confirmed another 5 kids passed away as a result of severe Strep A infections.
This brought the total to 24 since September.
Of course, it’s not a huge number but it’s still way higher than expected for this time of the year so this has been concerning in the medical field.
After all, the total number for the previous bad season, in 2017-2018, was 27 deaths under 18 years old so reaching 24 in just a couple of months is not a good sign.