Carriage of bacteria
Researchers at Imperial College London have developed a new approach to studying the carriage of bacteria. We all carry bacteria in the back of our throats; many of these are harmless and actually help protect us from other potentially invasive and harmful bacteria.
The new technique, developed and tested by Professors Paul Langford and Simon Kroll, is based on extracting bacterial DNA from throat swabs and uses genetic sequencing to investigate the bacterial population in the back of the throat. It is far more informative than existing culture-based methods.
In young children, this approach has shown that, reassuringly, the meningococcal group B (MenB) vaccine Bexsero does not have a deleterious effect on carriage of harmless, protective strains belonging to the same family of bacteria.
This new approach will be ideally suited to studying the carriage of meningococcal bacteria in adolescents, and also the carriage of other bacteria that cause life-threatening disease. Ultimately, it could help to develop vaccine policies that provide protection to as many people as possible.
A research team at University College London, led by Professor Jeremy Brown, has developed a new technique with the potential to produce cheaper vaccines that protect against more strains of pneumococcal bacteria and therefore prevent more cases of this type of meningitis.
The technique, called Protein Glycan Coupling Technology (PGCT), enables the combination of the bacteria’s sugary outer coating with specific pneumococcal surface proteins. In studies with mice, the resulting vaccine has been shown to be as effective as the currently available vaccine (Prevenar-13), with the additional benefit of broader, but meningitis specific protection
These encouraging and exciting results, together with other work by these researchers, has enabled the team to secure a Medical Research Council grant to continue this study.
This project has additional value as PGCT may also be applied to vaccines which protect against other meningitis-causing bacteria such as Neisseria meningitidis, which causes meningococcal disease.
Read more about our wider research programme here.