Discovery could improve efficacy of pneumonia vaccines

Scientists recently discovered how a novel type of antibody fights pneumococcal bacteria, a finding that could improve the efficacy of vaccines against pneumonia.

A team of researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, building on previous research, analyzed how the antibodies interact with pneumococcal bacteria. The scientists found that they caused the bacteria to cluster together, enhancing a phenomenon called quorum sensing, according to BioscienceTechnology.com.

"Quorum sensing is a way that bacteria communicate with one another," Dr. Liise-anne Pirofski, the senior author of the study, said, BioscienceTechnology.com reports. "Here, the ability of antibodies to enhance quorum sensing causes the bacteria to express genes that could kill some of their siblings, something called fratricide, and weaken the defense mechanisms that enable bacteria to survive and grow in a hostile environment."

The current pneumococcal vaccines do not cover all of the strains of the disease-causing pneumococcal bacteria and the adult vaccine does not prevent pneumonia. There is some hope that altering the current vaccines to stimulate antibodies that contribute to fratricide could enhance their overall effectiveness.

The team’s research was funded by research and training grants awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The study appears in the online journal of the American Society for Microbiology journal, mBio.

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