The researchers in the U.S. announced the commencement of trials of a new vaccine against childhood ear and sinus infections and several bronchitis cases in adults on Tuesday.
According to the researchers, the vaccine will aim at preventing irritating problems unlike the other vaccines on the markets that are life saving.
"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.
He pointed out that though ear infections were not fatal, they could cause severe damage in some kids. 83% of kids in the U.S. suffer from one or more types of ear infections by the age of 3 years and some cases end up in permanent hearing loss.
These infections are often treated with antibiotics, which leads to overuse of antibiotics resulting in wastage of money and evolution of drug resistant "superbug" bacteria.
The vaccine Prevnar was developed by a team at Rochester and marketed by Wyeth (WYE.N: Quote, Profile, Research). This vaccine provides protection in infants and kids against certain bacterial strains causing pneumonia, meningitis and ear infections.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a 78% reduction of pneumonia rates from the streptococcal strains targeted by Prevnar, by its use.
The National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders, one of the National Institutes of Health, gave a grant of $3.5 million to the University of Rochester on Tuesday for vaccine development.
"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, " he said.
"Testing has begun. We plan to enroll a total of 400 children and so far have enrolled 20," he added.
The Thrasher Foundation has given a grant of a $500,000 to the university for studies on pediatric diseases and 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. That would leave cold viruses as the leading cause of respiratory diseases, Pichichero said.