Vaccine Aims to Wipeout Ear, Sinus Infections - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/26/06

Vaccine Aims to Wipeout Ear, Sinus Infections

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. researchers said Tuesday that they are starting trials of a new vaccine aimed at wiping out childhood ear and sinus infections and many cases of bronchitis in adults.

Unlike virtually all other vaccines on the market, this one will not be aimed at saving lives, but at preventing nuisance illnesses, the researchers said.

"We are now in an era where we look to vaccines that make life better," said Dr. Michael Pichichero, a professor of microbiology, immunology, pediatrics, and medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who is leading the trial.

The vaccine will target Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae or NTHi, which is the main remaining cause of ear and sinus infections and bronchitis, now that vaccines exist for various forms of streptococcal bacteria and Haemophilus influenzae B, the previous leading causes.

"For ear infections they are the No. 1 cause, for sinus infections they are the No. 1 cause and for bronchitis in adults they are the No. 1 cause, but they do not invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening illness in normal people," Pichichero said in a telephone interview.

While ear infections are never fatal, they can cause serious damage in some children, Pichichero noted. He said 83 percent of U.S. children experience one or more ear infections by age 3 and in some cases hearing loss becomes permanent.

And the infections force children to visit clinics and emergency rooms, and are the leading reason for antibiotic prescriptions. Experts agree antibiotics are overused in the United States, which wastes money and also helps "superbug" bacteria evolve that resist the drugs.

A team at Rochester also helped develop the vaccine marketed by Wyeth as Prevnar, used to protect infants and toddlers against some bacteria strains that can cause pneumonia, meningitis and ear infections.

GlaxoSmithKline is working on a rival to Prevnar.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Prevnar's use has reduced pneumonia rates from the streptococcal strains it targets by 78 percent.

The University of Rochester announced on Tuesday it had won a $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders, one of the National Institutes of Health, to develop the new vaccine.

"I think the reason that this one has not moved forward at a faster pace despite the discovery of the potential vaccine ingredients ... (is that) up to now virtually all our vaccines have been focused on life-threatening illness," Pichichero said.

The vaccine uses little pieces of the bacteria that cause the infections to stimulate an immune response. As the bacteria are all in the same family, it should protect against a broad range of strains, Pichichero said.

Testing has begun. "We plan to enroll a total of 400 children and so far have enrolled 20," he said.

The university also has a $500,000 grant from the Thrasher Foundation, which pays for research into pediatric diseases, to study a new vaccine against Streptococcus pneumoniae strains not included in Prevnar's formulation.

"Our ultimate goal would be to combine the three ingredients from the Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae vaccine with the streptococcal vaccine, giving a vaccine that would prevent 90 percent of ear infections, sinus infections and bronchitis," Pichichero said.

That would leave cold viruses as the leading cause of respiratory diseases, he said.

Copyright 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Powered by Frankly