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Sunday, 17 November, 2002, 00:14 GMT
Vaccine hope for blood poisoning
Many patients are at risk of sepsis
Scientists have developed a vaccine to protect against blood poisoning.

If clinical trials prove successful, it could be given to hospital patients before surgery.

An estimated 1,400 people die from severe blood poisoning, or sepsis, each day across the world.


The vaccine provided outstanding protection

Dr Kim Janda of The Scripps Research Institute
Many of these fall victim to the disease in hospital following surgery.

The current treatment is antibiotics but it is often too little too late. Scientists are now working on ways to stop people developing the disease by immunisation.

Sepsis is caused by the body's over-reaction to chemicals produced by certain bacteria.

The vaccine is designed to mimic one of these chemicals, triggering protection against the real thing.

'Good protection'

In tests on mice, the vaccine appeared to damp down the body's response to infection.

"The vaccine provided outstanding protection," said Dr Kim Janda of The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

"Now that we have evidence that [the vaccine] provides good protection in a mouse model, we really want to go on to a clinical working model," said co-researcher Dr Paul Wentworth.

Sepsis can strike anyone but is most likely to develop from infection associated with pneumonia, trauma, surgery, burns or conditions such as cancer and Aids.

Some cases are mild, such as a tooth abscess. If severe it can lead to multiple organ failure and death. Four out of five patients who die from major injuries are actually killed by sepsis.

Cautious optimism

The death rate from severe cases of sepsis has not changed for 50 years. This gives grounds for cautious optimism about a possible vaccine, according to Dr Sergery Mikhalovsky of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Brighton, UK.

"I don't think this vaccine is universal against all kinds of bacteria that trigger sepsis," he told BBC News Online. "And even if it was, it has to be proved on humans."

One of the reasons for the poor progress in fighting sepsis, he said, is the lack of a good animal model for the condition. This makes it difficult to carry out research and test novel treatments for the condition.

See also:

02 Oct 01 | Health
12 Feb 01 | Health
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