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Semin Immunopathol. 2012 Mar;34(2):335-48. doi: 10.1007/s00281-011-0293-5. Epub 2011 Nov 14.

Development of a vaccine against Staphylococcus aureus.

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The Division of General Internal Medicine, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, Harbor-University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


A vaccine to prevent infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus would have a tremendously beneficial impact on public health. In contrast to typical encapsulated bacterial pathogens, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, H. influenzae, and Neisseria meningitides, the capsule of S. aureus is not clearly linked to strain virulence in vivo. Furthermore, it is not clear that natural infection caused by S. aureus induces a protective humoral immune response, as does infection caused by typical encapsulated bacteria. Finally, pure B cell or antibody deficiency, in either animal models or in patients, does not predispose to more frequent or more severe S. aureus infections, as it does for infections caused by typical encapsulated bacteria. Rather, primary immune mechanisms necessary for protection against S. aureus infections include professional phagocytes and T lymphocytes (Th17 cells, in particular) which upregulate phagocytic activity. Thus, it is not clear whether an antibody-mediated neutralization of S. aureus virulence factors should be the goal of vaccination. Rather, the selection of antigenic targets which induce potent T cell immune responses that react to the broadest possible array of S. aureus strains should be the focus of antigen selection. Of particular promise is the potential to select antigens which induce both humoral and T cell-mediated immunity in order to generate immune synergy against S. aureus infections. A single-antigen vaccine may achieve this immune synergy. However, multivalent antigens may be more likely to induce both humoral and T cell immunity and to induce protection against a broader array of S. aureus isolates. A number of candidate vaccines are in development, raising the promise that effective vaccines against S. aureus will become available in the not-so-distant future. Possible development programs for such vaccines are discussed.

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