Deaths from pneumonia have almost halved since the beginning of the century, and a new vaccine under development could reduce fatalities further, according to a new report published in the journal Science Advances.
Varieties of the disease that aren’t covered by current immunisations are responsible for around 7 to 10 per cent of cases of pneumococcal disease. But officials worry that will change, as these less common forms replace the 23 more common types targeted by current immunisations.
According to tests performed on mice and rabbits, the new vaccine stimulated an immune response to 72 of the more than 90 known strains of S. pneumoniae. In many cases, it outperformed existing vaccines.
Blaine Pfeifer, the study’s co-lead author, said: ‘We’ve made tremendous progress fighting the spread of pneumonia, especially among children. But if we’re ever going to rid ourselves of the disease, we need to create smarter and more cost-effective vaccines.’
Charles Jones, the study’s other co-lead author, said: ‘Traditional vaccines completely remove bacteria from the body. But we now know that bacteria – and in a larger sense, the microbiome – are beneficial to maintaining good health.’
‘What’s really exciting is that we now have the ability – with the vaccine we’re developing – to watch over bacteria and attack it only if it breaks away from the colony to cause an illness. That’s important because if we leave the harmless bacteria in place, it prevents other harmful bacteria from filling that space.’