A group of scientists in Italy have developed a vaccine with thepotential to protect against fungal pathogens that commonly infecthumans, according to a study by Torosantucci and colleagues in theSeptember 5 issue of The Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Although these fungi pose little threat to people with healthy immunesystems, they can cause fatal infections in those whose immune systemshave been weakened by cancer treatments or post-transplantimmunosuppressive therapies. No anti-fungal vaccines are currentlyavailable.
The new vaccine was made of a sugar-like molecule called beta-glucanthat is found on the cell wall of the fungus and that the fungus needsto grow and survive. To induce a robust immune response to the vaccine,the group attached the relatively innocuous beta-glucan to a proteincalled diptheria toxin that is known to stimulate the immune system andhas been used in other human vaccines.
The vaccine protected rodents from fatal fungal infections bytriggering the production of anti-beta-glucan antibodies. Theseantibodies stuck to the invading fungal cell wall and prevented thefungus from growing. The authors now plan to test the vaccine in humansand hope the results are equally promising.
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