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Vaccine Made With Synthetic Gene Protects Against Deadly Pneumonia

Posted Feb 24 2011 8:53pm

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have developed an experimental vaccine that appears to protect against an increasingly common and particularly deadly form of pneumococcal pneumonia. Details of the new vaccine, which was tested in an animal model, are reported in a paper published today in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Pneumococcal pneumonia can occur when the lungs are infected with the bacterial species Streptococcus pneumoniae (also known as pneumococcus). “Like many microbes that cause pneumonia, pneumococcus is spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing,” said principal investigator Liise-anne Pirofski, M.D., professor of medicine and of microbiology & immunology and chief of the division of infectious diseases at Einstein and Montefiore Medical Center. Symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases estimates that 175,000 people are hospitalized with pneumococcal pneumonia in the United States each year.  In addition to pneumonia, pneumococcus causes 34,500 bloodstream infections and 2,200 cases of meningitis annually. It is responsible for more deaths in the United States – 4,800 a year – than any other vaccine-preventable disease.  It poses a particular problem in the developing world, where it is estimated to cause more than one million deaths in children each year, according to the World Health Organization.

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