Breakthrough for MRSA vaccination

A vaccine that contains four staphylococcus bacteria proteins can effectively protect against MRSA infection, a US study in mice has found.

The researchers showed that the vaccine, developed using a novel technique known as reverse vaccinology, was effective at preventing a number of strains of the infection.

Previous attempts to develop an MRSA vaccine using killed or live attenuated bacteria have only provided partial immunity.

The researchers tried to create a vaccine that would provide much broader protection against MRSA by recognising the specific cell-surface proteins responsible for the virulence of the bacteria.

Eight staphylococcal genome sequences were analysed, leading to the identification of 19 surface proteins that are present in all known strains of MRSA.

The researchers then vaccinated mice with each protein to see which would give immunity to Staphylococcus aureus infection.

Four proteins provided significant reduction in bacterial load. These were then used to create a single vaccine, which was given to mice that were subsequently infected with one of five MRSA strains.

Mice given the vaccine had a significantly improved survival rate for all strains. Against two of the strains, the vaccine produced 100 per cent survival, compared with 20 and 40 per cent survival in unvaccinated mice.

Dr Olaf Schneewind, professor of microbiology at the University of Chicago and director of the study, described this as an important breakthrough.

‘This organism has learned how to evade nearly all of our current antibiotics. So, generating protective immunity against invasive MRSA has become an important goal,’ he said.

PNAS 2006; 103: 16,942–7

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