The new vaccine by the research team, led by Patrick Schlievert, professor and chair of microbiology in the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine, targets toxins that are made and secreted by staph bacteria.
The researchers believed a vaccine that blocked the action of these toxins might prevent the serious illness caused by the bacteria.
Using an animal model that closely resembles human staph infection, the researchers showed that vaccination against three staph toxins provided almost complete protection against staph infections.
The vaccinated animals were protected from disease even when they were infected with very high doses of bacteria.
Furthermore, not only did the vaccine protect the animals from dying, but seven days after vaccination there were no disease-causing bacteria remaining in the animals' lungs.
"Our study suggests that vaccination against these toxins may provide protection against all strains of staph. If we can translate this finding into an effective vaccine for people it could potentially prevent millions of cases of serious and milder skin and soft tissue infections yearly," Schlievert said.
The team also found that passive immunization- using serum from vaccinated animals to immunize other animals- was successful. This finding suggests that antibodies induced by the vaccination are the protective factor.
The study is published in the Journal of Infectious Disease.