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News

GBS vaccine hope for newborn babies

Society For General Microbiology : 13 September, 2005  (Company News)
Group B Streptococcusare the most common bacteria attacking newborn babies, affecting 1 in 1000 births, and killing up to 6% of those infected. Now microbiologists may be closer to finding a way of protecting against them, according to research presented today at the Society for General Microbiology's 157th Meeting at Keele University, UK.
Group B Streptococcusare the most common bacteria attacking newborn babies, affecting 1 in 1000 births, and killing up to 6% of those infected. Now microbiologists may be closer to finding a way of protecting against them, according to research presented today at the Society for General Microbiology's 157th Meeting at Keele University, UK.

Babies catch the bacteria from infected mothers during pregnancy. Women carrying GBS do not always know, as it can often have no symptoms. In newborns, GBS can cause pneumonia, blood infections and meningitis, and seriously ill babies can die within 24 hours of birth.

'At the moment we don't know why GBS is so virulent, so we need to understand how it sticks itself to a baby's cell surfaces to give us a chance of creating a vaccine,' says Beverley Bray from the University of Bradford.

Beverley Bray and collaborators have focused on structures called lipoproteins on the bacterium's surface which may be important in several processes, including attaching GBS to the baby's own cells. The researchers looked at a closely related species of Streptococcus that attacks horses, and created a strain which does not produce lipoproteins. The team showed that this changes the bacterium's ability to cause disease, making lipoproteins a possible route for creating a vaccine.

'If, ultimately, we can develop an effective vaccine from lipoproteins, we could prevent infected mothers from transmitting the bacteria to newborns. This will remove the need to treat large numbers of infected mothers and babies with antibiotics,' says Beverley Bray.

The Society of General Microbiology's Meeting at Keele University is the first time this work has been presented in public, and the Bradford University scientists' initial findings are expected to be published in 2006.
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