In 2004, pneumonia killed more than 2 million children worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). By 2015, the number was less than 1 million.
Better access to antibiotics and improved nutrition account for part of the decline. But scientists say it’s mostly due to vaccines introduced in the early 2000s that target up to 23 of the most deadly forms of the bacterium that causes pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Now, a new vaccine under development could deal another blow to the disease, lowering the number of deaths even further by targeting dozens of additional strains of S pneumoniae, and anticipating future versions of the bacteria responsible for pneumococcal disease, which includes sepsis and meningitis.
The vaccine provoked an immune response to 72 forms of S pneumoniae – including the 23 mentioned above – in lab tests on animals, according to new research published today (Oct. 20, 2017) in the journal Science Advances. The study represents the “most comprehensive” coverage of pneumococcal disease to date, researchers say.
“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,” says Blaine Pfeifer, PhD, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University at Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the study’s co-lead author.