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Gene study offers new Strep A vaccine hope

Tuesday May 28th, 2019

A major genetic analysis may have pin-pointed targets for vaccines against Group A streptococcus, it was announced last night.

But the project, involving British and Australian scientists, cast doubt on the benefits of drugs currently being tested as vaccines.

The bacteria has many strains found around the world – and the researchers set out to examine the genomes of as many strains as possible. This involved an analysis of more than 2,000 samples from 20 counties.

Reporting in Nature Genetics, they say they have now found genes common to all strains.

The project involved the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, together with Cambridge University, working alongside the University of Queensland, Australia, and the Doherty Institute at Melbourne University.

Researcher Dr Mark Davies said: “Using large-scale genomic sequencing, we identified the existence of more than 290 genetically different lineages of clinically important Strep A, highlighting the challenges of designing an effective global vaccine.

"However, using all the data we collected, we narrowed down common genes in almost all strains of Strep A globally. This is a tremendous step forward in identifying what may work as a global vaccine candidate.”

Professor Mark Walker, from the University of Queensland, said: “This research has the potential to fast track a much-needed Strep A vaccine as developers and the wider scientific community can now use our database to identify the most common genes as vaccine targets.

"I believe a global vaccine is possible and these research findings, in addition to increased funding commitments, will renew the momentum towards the search for a global vaccine.”

Mark R Davies et al. Atlas of group A streptococcal vaccine candidates compiled using large scale comparative genomics. Nature Genetics 27 May 2019; doi: 10.1038/s41588-019-0417-8

Tags: Australia | Genetics | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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