British researcher creates vaccine against hospital superbug

A researcher at the Royal Holloway University of London is working on a vaccine that targets a hospital superbug showing increasing antibiotic resistance.

Simon Cutting, from the university's school of biological sciences, wants to begin testing the first trial of the new vaccine against Clostridium difficile in human patients in early 2013. The bacteria caused at least 2,000 deaths and more than 24,000 infections in the United Kingdom last year, the Telegraph reports.

"There is currently no vaccine available against C. difficile and it is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, so the ways of combating it are limited," Cutting said, according to the Telegraph. "It causes a lot of problems in hospitals however. We have found that our vaccine can produce full protection against the bacteria in animal models. We are now in discussions with drug companies and hope to begin initial safety trials in humans early next year."

The bacteria, which preys on the elderly or patients with weakened immune systems, is a major problem in hospitals and causes more deaths than other superbugs like MRSA.

The oral vaccine is a genetically modified human gut bacteria called Bacillus subtilis. Parts of C. difficile appear on the surface of spores created by the bacteria and may trigger a reaction to produce immunity against future C. difficile infection.

"Rather than requiring needle delivery, vaccines based on Bacillus spores can be delivered via a nasal spray, or as on oral liquid or capsule," Cutting said, according to the Telegraph. "As spores are exceptionally stable, the vaccines do not need to be stored in a refrigerator and have a much longer shelf life."

Cutter said the approach could also provide new influenza and tuberculosis vaccines as nasal sprays or pills, the Telegraph reports.