Tailor-made vaccines ‘could substantially reduce disease rates'

Changing vaccination approach for serious diseases caused by bacteria could also help minimise antibiotic resistance, scientists say.

Tailor-made vaccines for serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis could substantially reduce disease rates, scientists have said.

New research suggests changing the vaccination approach for diseases caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria could also help minimise antibiotic resistance and protect those more vulnerable to infection such as infants and the elderly.

The scientists propose tailor-made vaccines targeting specific bacterial serotypes – groups within a single bacteria species sharing similar structural features – while taking into account different geographical populations and age groups.

Dr Nicholas Croucher, of Imperial College London and one of the study authors, said: “Our research shows that the best vaccine designs strongly depend on the bacterial strains present in the population, which vary considerably between countries.

“The best vaccine designs also depend on the age group being vaccinated.

“These ideas will be critical for applying lessons learned from introducing vaccines in high-income countries to combating the disease where the burden is highest.”

S. pneumoniae is usually present in the nasal cavity, where it is normally harmless.

But it can cause serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis – known collectively as invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) – in other parts of the body.

Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Imperial College London and Simon Fraser University in Canada used computer simulations to predict how vaccines could be optimised for specific age groups, geographic regions and communities of bacteria.

This approach, the researchers said, helped them identify new vaccine designs that could reduce overall rates of disease.

The study also found that adult disease rates could be reduced by almost 50% by redesigning adult vaccines to complement those administered to infants.

The results highlight the need for vaccine programmes to be tailored to specific communities of bacteria and to consider vaccination at different ages, the researchers said.

Professor Caroline Colijn, of Simon Fraser University and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, added: “This approach to optimising vaccines will help to address several problems, such as invasive disease among infants or adults and minimising antibiotic resistance in the post vaccine population.

“Such an approach also enables public health policy-makers to assess the likely effectiveness of an existing vaccine for a local population based on genomic surveillance data.”

The findings are published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

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