May 6, 2005

Investigators test vaccine to curb staph infections

Featured Image

Gayle Johnson, R.N., administers the StaphVAX to Polly Keith, a transplant coordinator at Vanderbilt.
photo by Dana Johnson

Investigators test vaccine to curb staph infections

Vanderbilt University Medical Center infectious diseases researchers are launching a trial for a new vaccine against Staphylococcus aureus.

The vaccine, if proven effective, could help curb the growing threat of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an emerging organism rapidly spreading through close personal contact.

The new vaccine, called StaphVAX, is a conjugate vaccine developed for patients who are at high risk of S. aureus infections. The vaccine targets S. aureus types 5 and 8, the cause of approximately 85 percent of all S. aureus infections.

“This vaccine appears to be very safe, and has proven so in several other trials, even among study recipients with serious chronic illnesses,” said Buddy Creech, M.D., a fellow in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and the study's co-investigator.

StaphVAX is intended to stimulate a recipient's immune system to produce antibodies to S. aureus that provide active, long-term protection from the bacteria.

“Previously, this vaccine has been tested in both healthy and chronically ill patients, has been found to be safe, and has generated a substantial immune response. In addition, this vaccine has been effective in reducing the risk of staph infections in a study of dialysis patients,” said Thomas Talbot, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine & Preventive Medicine, associate hospital epidemiologist, and the study's other principal investigator. “We have a great interest in this vaccine because of the protection it could offer for those at high risk.”

“We know from studies we've done here that infections due to drug-resistant staph have dramatically increased among healthy children and young adults in Middle Tennessee,” Creech said.

“This is important since this vaccine targets both the typical staph that we have been accustomed to seeing, as well as MRSA which is clearly on the rise in the community.”

Talbot says this study won't answer all questions about the role of S. aureus vaccination, but should provide data to support licensure and subsequent trials to further examine the use of this novel tool in the prevention of staphylococcal infections.

The StaphVAX trial is open to any healthy adult over the age of 18. For more information, including enrollment criteria, on the trial please call 936-MRSA (6772).