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A vaccine for deadly fungal infections

Health & Wellbeing

This new vaccine could greatly reduce the number of people who develop fatal fungal infections

Spotted: Fungal microbes are all around us – they live in the soil, on surfaces, on human skin, as well as in our bodies. Normally, we don’t notice the presence of these tiny hitchhikers, but when a host becomes susceptible due to a lowered immune response or a change in conditions, then fungal microbes can cause serious disease. In fact, fungal infections are responsible for around 1.5 million deaths each year.

A team from the University of Georgia has now come up with what could be the first clinically-approved immunisation to protect against invasive fungal pathogens. The vaccine is designed to shield against the three most common causes of fungal infections: Aspergillus, Candida, and Pneumocystis. Together, these three types of microbe are responsible for more than 80 per cent of fungal fatalities.

This research builds on earlier work by the team, which demonstrated that the KEX1 peptide can disrupt fungal growth. The current study demonstrates the efficacy of a pan-fungal consensus sequence of KEX1 that can act cross different fungi. In animal trials, the vaccine showed “broad, cross-protective antifungal immunity”.

Professor Karen Norris, lead investigator on the new study, pointed out: “There’s a significant unmet clinical need for this kind of prevention and also treatment, particularly among immunocompromised individuals.” No vaccines of this kind have been been approved yet, but the University of Georgia has now created an extremely strong candidate. Plans are underway to develop the antifungal vaccine for a Phase I (human) safety trial.

As resistance to antibiotics and antifungals grows, there is a new urgency to find other medicines and improve preventative measures. Springwise has spotted other innovators working to provide alternatives, including treatments using medicines generated by bacteria and nano-robots that fight antibiotic-resistant microbes.

Written By: Lisa Magloff

Email: kanorris@uga.edu

Website: vet.uga.edu/infectious-diseases

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