Vaccine Stops Staph Infections

ByABC News
September 19, 2000, 5:20 PM

T O R O N T O, Sept. 19 -- A vaccine has been shown for the first time toprotect against life-threatening staph infections, a major hazardamong hospital patients, researchers said today.

The genetically engineered vaccine was tested first in kidneydialysis patients, and it cut their risk of staph blood poisoningin half for nearly a year.

I am quite encouraged by this. It could be a majorbreakthrough in this area, said Dr. Steve Black of the KaiserPermanente Vaccine Study Center in Oakland, Calif.

Black presented the results in a last-minute addition to theprogram of the annual infectious disease meeting of the AmericanSociety for Microbiology.

The vaccine, called StaphVAX, was created at the NationalInstitutes of Health and is being developed by Nabi Corp. of BocaRaton, Fla., which financed the latest study.

Staphylococcus aureus is a common and ordinarily harmlessinhabitant of the human nasal tract. It can live for days outsidethe body on almost any surface and spreads widely in hospitals,where it can cause serious infections among those who are alreadysick, especially if they have weak immune defenses.

Infection Sometimes Fatal

Staph can be deadly if it invades the bloodstream. It can leadto pneumonia, encephalitis, liver abscesses and other problems.

Staph infections are relatively common among people who useneedles frequently, such as diabetics and dialysis patients,elderly people in nursing homes and those who are hospitalized forsurgery and a variety of other conditions.

Doctors conducted the first large test of StaphVAX in dialysispatients because typically between 1 percent and 3 percent of themget bloodstream staph infections each year.

Robert B. Naso, Nabis research director, said the company willseek approval soon from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration toproduce and sell the vaccine.

The study enrolled 1,804 patients at 90 dialysis centers inCalifornia. Half got the vaccine, while the rest took dummy shots.