Genomics and Vaccine Development

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Science  01 Jul 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5731, pp. 15
DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5731.15g

The prominent bacterial pathogen group B Streptococcus (GBS) is responsible for the majority of sepsis and meningitis cases between birth and 2 months of age. Based on evidence that effective maternally derived antibody protection can be transferred to newborns, different conjugate vaccines against the prevalent western serotypes are currently being assessed in clinical trials, but a rationally designed, multiunit vaccine that could broadly protect against global serotypes would be highly desirable. To identify potential antigens suitable for use in a universal GBS vaccine, Maione et al. (p. 148) scanned the genome sequences of eight GBS strains that represent the most important disease-causing serotypes. On the basis of immunological tests, GBS proteins were identified that were conserved between all strains globally. From these, a four-antigen vaccine combination emerged as the most effective at generating broad serotype immunity. Pili are often important in virulence in Gram-negative bacteria through their role in adhesion, but are usually not usually associated with Gram-positive strains such as Streptococcus. Lauer et al. (p. 105) nonetheless have identified pilus-like structures in GBS through immunogold electron microscopy which are composed of antigens that confer protective immunity in mouse models of maternal immunization.

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