Scientists launch three-year project to develop C. difficile vaccine

A group of leading European scientists presented a new project on Monday aimed at developing an oral vaccine against Clostridium difficile, according to the University of Royal Holloway London.

The three-year project, headed by Royal Holloway, is taking the novel approach of looking to produce an oral vaccine using harmless bacteria to carry antigens to boost immunity against C. difficile. The project is funded by an $8.01 million grant from the European Union.

"We believe that our approach to develop this vaccine will provide significantly greater protection against infection and relapse, than would have been achieved via injections," Simon Cutting, a professor from Royal Holloway's School of Biological Sciences, said. "This method is also likely to inform the treatment of many other diseases."

The scientists presented the project to pharmaceutical companies and practitioners from around the world on Monday at the Raising C. difficile Awareness conference in North Carolina and the Bio-Europe conference in Vienna, Austria.

While C. difficile is harmless in healthy people, the bacterium can be fatal when the natural bacteria of the gut are disrupted by antibiotics. The infection kills approximately 4,000 people annually.

"C. difficile poses a major public health threat and there is an urgent need for protective vaccines," Cutting said. "I am delighted to be coordinating this program with such a strong team of academic and industrial experts."

First clinical trials of the proposed vaccine are expected to start in the next 18 months.