SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2016

Scientists developing tularemia vaccine

Scientists from the University of Texas at San Antonio's South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases have been granted a U.S. patent that covering the development of a process to create a vaccine for tularemia.

"We developed what is called a 'live attenuated vaccine,' by removing Francisella's IglD gene, which is critical for the bacteria to be able to survive and grow inside infected cells," Karl Klose, one of the center's researchers, told UTSA Today, "In a series of studies over three years, we characterized the IglD gene, knocked it out, and observed that the crippled bacterium was able to act as an effective vaccine by inducing an immune response without causing tularemia.”

Tuleremia’s causative agent is the infectious bacterium Francisella tularensis, which is carried predominantly by animals such as rabbits and various rodents. Though it rarely causes infection in humans, it can be fatal when inhaled. F tularensis is considered a viable potential bioweapon.

Tularemia, also known as Pahvant Valley plague and rabbit fever, is easy to aerosolize, is highly infective and is also highly incapacitating. It can cause fever, lethargy, swelling to the face, eyes and lymph nodes, as well as skin lesions.

In addition to research on tularemia, scientists at STCEID are also currently working towards vaccines to stop Valley Fever, Lyme disease and anthrax.