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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital houses an ambitious program to fight potentially fatal infections in children. The effort falls under the umbrella of the hospital’s Children’s Infectious Diseases Center (CIDC).
Millions of children die each year from infections caused by viruses and bacteria. It is often hard to diagnose these illnesses, there are no effective vaccines for children, and there is a constant threat that antibiotic-resistant viruses and bacteria will emerge. These contagious infections can spread rapidly, and children younger than 3 are often the most vulnerable because their immune systems are still developing.
A key part of this effort is the development of preventive vaccines, which will protect children from developing these deadly infections. Vaccines are one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine. But none exist for many deadly or debilitating diseases.
A vaccine is a suspension of whole or parts of bacteria or viruses (live or inactivated) that have been engineered so that they don’t make the immunized person sick but do induce an immune response and prevent disease.
St. Jude has a complete vaccine program – from the concept and research phase, through preclinical and clinical trials, to actual vaccine production. It operates vaccine programs that focus on respiratory viruses and bacterial infections. The hospital’s tuberculosis effort is developing an antibiotic to treat the disease. Tuberculosis infects one-third of the world's population, killing about 2.9 million people per year.
This program is developing one vaccine that will protect people from three different respiratory viruses: parainfluenza, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Parainfluenza causes croup, an upper and lower respiratory infection often characterized by a spasmodic, barking cough. Each year influenza viruses cause serious, sometimes lethal, infections in humans. RSV is a lower respiratory infection and can be fatal in young children.
This part of the program will attack cholera and pneumococcal infections.
Cholera is an infection that strikes the small bowel and is characterized by watery diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, dehydration, and collapse. It kills 2.5 million people a year worldwide and is highly lethal in young children. St. Jude researchers have developed a cholera vaccine.
The pneumococcus bacterium is the leading cause of illness in young children. It causes many types of infections, including ear infections, pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. St. Jude has developed an improved pneumococcal vaccine that includes a protein that will make the vaccine broader-based and more effective in very young children.
St. Jude is also working on a Group B streptococcus (GBS) vaccine. GBS is a potentially fatal infection that strikes newborns.