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Published On: Thu, Apr 10th, 2014

LA BioMed researcher receives NIH grant to study passive Acinetobacter vaccine

PRESS RELEASE

As one of the most common and deadliest “Superbugs,” Acinetobacter baumannii, continues to grow in strength and prevalence, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) infectious disease specialist Brad Spellberg, MD, is launching a study to determine if a vaccine could halt the spread of these hospital-acquired infections.

Acinetobacter baumannii Image/CDC/ Janice Haney Carr

Acinetobacter baumannii
Image/CDC/ Janice Haney Carr

Dr. Spellberg recently received a National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Grant of $347,474 for the first year of a multi-year study to explore the effectiveness of a passive vaccine composed of monoclonal antibodies in protecting against the otherwise lethal antibiotic resistant Acinetobacter infections in disease models. Monoclonal antibodies are made by identical immune cells that are all clones of a unique parent cell.

Most “active” vaccines, like those against polio or measles, are administered to stimulate one’s own production of antibodies, and they take time be effective. By giving patients, who are already in the hospital, antibodies “off the shelf,” such as the monoclonals, the anti-microbial effect would be immediate. Dr. Spellberg’s research will determine if the monoclonal antibodies are protective against invading Acinetobacter.

“We have some preliminary data indicating monoclonal antibodies could be an effective tool for preventing the harmful effects of these infections, so our research will explore whether this approach is indeed effective and how it works,” Dr. Spellberg said. “No new antibiotics to treat Acinetobacter infections are expected to be developed in the next decade, so finding a vaccine is critical. The monoclonal antibodies we will be studying have shown great potential already.”

In the last decade, Acinetobacter has become a predominant cause of hospital-acquired infections in the U.S. and across the globe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Health Safety Network reported that Acinetobacter accounts for 3% of the 2 million hospital-acquired infections per year in the U.S., or an estimated 60,000 cases per year. Globally, there are an estimated 1.2 million to 1.4 million cases of Acinetobacter annually. Of those, an estimated 600,000 per year are extensively drug resistant.

The impact of antibiotic resistance among Acinetobacter is underscored by a recent study of 13,796 patients in 1,265 ICUs from 75 countries. Of the 19 organisms studied, A. baumannii was one of only two organisms strongly linked to increased hospital mortality.

“The rapid rise in these types of potentially deadly infections is of special concern,” said Dr. Spellberg. “The proportion of Acinetobacter infections resistant to almost all antibiotics has grown more than 10-fold, from less than 4% in 2000 to more than 50% in 2012. Infections caused by drug-resistant Acinetobacter are associated with longer hospitalizations, greater health care costs and higher mortality than other hospital-acquired infections. Finding new methods of combating antibiotic-resistant infections will save lives and money.”

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