The vaccine has been developed over more than 20 years by Professor Michael Good from Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics and scientists at QIMR.
The vaccine is based on part of a protein found on the surface of the Strep A bacteria. Animal studies have shown the vaccine makes the immune system produce antibodies that kill the germ.
“Previous studies have shown that the vaccine induces a very effective immune response in rabbits and mice,” Professor Good said.
“The next important step is to ensure that it is safe and does not cause any adverse effects in people, in particular that the vaccine itself doesn’t cause any heart damage.”
The head of QIMR’s Infectious Diseases program, Professor James McCarthy, will lead the year-long trial of 20 healthy adults in Brisbane, at the co-owned and co-located clinical trial facility, Q-Pharm.
“Participants will be monitored very closely for the next 12 months,” Professor McCarthy said.
“Each volunteer will be given two doses of the vaccine and we’ll be watching carefully for any signs of heart problems.”
Repeated attacks of rheumatic fever can cause a build-up of damage to the heart valves, known as rheumatic heart disease. It’s largely a disease of poverty, and a major issue in remote indigenous communities across northern Australia, where some of the highest rates occur in the world.
“Infection rates in remote indigenous communities in Queensland are among the highest in the world. Nine out of every ten people affected in this State are indigenous,” Professor Good said.
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has twice had surgery to repair damage to his heart, after suffering rheumatic fever as a child.
The vaccine trial is funded by the Co-operative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.
Much of Professor Good’s early work was backed by the National Heart Foundation, The Prince Charles Hospital Research Foundation, the United States National Institutes of Health, the Co-operative Research Centre for Vaccine Technology, the Perpetual Foundation and the NHMRC.
The Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) is a world leading translational research institute. Our research focuses on cancer, infectious diseases, mental health and a range of complex diseases. Working in close collaboration with clinicians and other research institutes, our aim is to improve health by developing new diagnostics, better treatments and prevention strategies.
QIMR gratefully acknowledges the support of the Queensland Government.
For more information about QIMR, visit www.qimr.edu.au