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`Nanosponge vaccine` can help fight superbugs

Last Updated: Monday, December 2, 2013 - 18:05

Washington: A new study has revealed that nanosponges that soak up a dangerous pore-forming toxin produced by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) could serve as a safe and effective vaccine against this toxin.

This "nanosponge vaccine" enabled the immune systems of mice to block the adverse effects of the alpha-haemolysin toxin from MRSA-both within the bloodstream and on the skin.

The nanosponges at the foundation of the experimental "toxoid vaccine" platform are bio-compatible particles made of a polymer core wrapped in a red-blood-cell membrane. Each nanosponge's red-blood-cell membrane seizes and detains the Staphylococcus aureus (staph) toxin alpha-haemolysin without compromising the toxin's structural integrity through heating or chemical processing.

These toxin-studded nanosponges served as vaccines capable of triggering neutralizing antibodies and fighting off otherwise lethal doses of the toxin in mice.

Toxoid vaccines protect against a toxin or set of toxins, rather than the organism that produces the toxin(s). As the problem of antibiotic resistance worsens, toxoid vaccines offer a promising approach to fight infections without reliance on antibiotics.

"With our toxoid vaccine, we don't have to worry about antibiotic resistance. We directly target the alpha-haemolysin toxin," senior author Liangfang Zhang, a nanoengineering professor at the University of California, San Diego, said. "These toxins create a toxic environment that serves as a defence mechanism which makes it harder for the immune system to fight Staph bacteria."

Beyond MRSA and other staph infections, the nanosponge vaccine approach could be used to create vaccines that protect against a wide range of toxins, including those produced by E. coli and H. pylori.

The study is published in journal Nature Nanotechnology. 

First Published: Monday, December 2, 2013 - 18:05

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