Vaccine could cut complications after surgery

A vaccine has been developed, which could prevent inflammation and illness caused by certain bacterial infections following major surgery, scientists heard today (Tuesday 09 April 2002) at the spring meeting of the Society for General Microbiology at the University of Warwick.

Dr Elliott Bennett-Guerrero, Chief of Cardiac Anesthesia at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, New York, USA says, “Severe inflammation caused by bacterial toxins is becoming recognised as an important cause of illness following major surgical operations. We have developed a vaccine to toxins that are found in the Gram-negative group of bacteria, which includes E. coli 0157 and Klebseilla pneumoniae.”

Toxins, known as endotoxins, are made up of fats found on the cell surface of Gram-negative bacteria. When infections are treated with antibiotics these bacteria burst into pieces, which increases the amount of endotoxin released into the bloodstream. This can cause severe inflammation throughout the body and not just at the site of surgery.

Dr Bennett-Guerrero says, “There are no effective treatments for inflammation induced illness. Vaccines have not previously been used to prevent Gram-negative bacteria infections in hospitalised patients because they themselves can produce inflammation. Our vaccine contains complete endotoxins from several species, which are incorporated into a liposome to avoid toxicity.”

“Infections following major surgery now affect over 1 in 5 patients (22%). These can cause a great deal of suffering and increase health care costs. Our vaccine is non-toxic to animals, does not cause side effects such as fever and flu-like symptoms, and should protect against a broad range of species,” says Dr Bennett-Guerrero.

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