NIH-funded study will test pneumococcal vaccine with adults 55 and older

Researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health will test to see if a higher pneumococcal vaccine dose will create a stronger immune response in older adults who previously received an earlier generation vaccine.

The study will compare two dosages of a pneumococcal vaccine approved for adults 50 and older and children aged six weeks to five years old. The trial will enroll as many as 882 women and men between the ages of 55 to 74.

Adults older than 65 and children younger than five are the most susceptible to illness from pneumococcal pneumonia. Streptococcus pneumoniae is a bacterium that can cause pneumococcal pneumonia, which can infect the upper respiratory tract and spread to the nervous system, blood, lungs and middle ear.

More than 300,000 people are hospitalized annually for pneumonia in the United States. In 2009, pneumonia ranked eighth among the 15 leading causes of death in the country. Adults 55 and older accounted for 92 percent of pneumonia-related deaths in 2009.

The NIH-funded study may give new insights into the immune responses in older adults that are needed to provide protection against pneumonia.

The PPSV23 vaccine, also known as Pneumovax 23, has been the standard protection from invasive pneumococcus in adults older than 65 years of age for the last 30 years. It is unclear how well the vaccine protects against bacterial pneumococcal pneumonia.

The newer PCV13 vaccine, Prevnar 13, protects against bacterial pneumonia in children, but the most effective dosage and efficacy in adults is unknown.

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