A new pneumonia vaccine, developed by Brazilian and American scientists, which experts say is more effective against the disease at a lower price, began to be experienced in humans, scientific sources reported Friday.
According to the Research Support Foundation of the State of Sao Paulo (Fapesp), the vaccine would be able to protect against all the serotypes of the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which causes the disease.
After 10 years of research, scientists from the Butantan Institute (Brazil) and Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard University, managed to reach the new cell vaccine, which was already tested in humans in the African continent.
“We adopt a different strategy to activate the immune response. Instead of targeting the polysaccharides present in the bacterial capsule, as vaccines currently available do, we opt for proteins common to all serotypes of the microorganism,” said Luciana Cezar of Cerqueira Leite, researcher at the Special Laboratory for Vaccine Development of the Butantan Institute, cited in a statement from Fapesp.
According to the scientist, proteins that could be used as a target were investigated for a decade.
“Along the way the proposal for a cell vaccine arose. We developed a production process, we changed the ‘helper’ (substance capable of enhancing the immune response) and even the form of administration because we intended it to be through the nasal route, but we perceived that the product would be more efficient by the intramuscular route, “said Cerqueira.
The initial part of the investigation, coordinated by Cerqueira Leite, was supported by Fapesp. Already the clinical trials of phases 1 and 2 were carried out in Africa under the coordination of the Harvard University team, with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and by the Program of Appropriate Technologies in Health (Path, por its acronym in English), an American nonprofit organization.
Phase 3, which does not yet have a start date, will include a larger number of people and will measure the effectiveness of the vaccine by comparing an immunized population with another who took a placebo.
It is estimated that there are more than 90 serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae in the world, which, in addition to pneumonia, cause diseases such as meningitis, otitis and sinusitis.
Serotypes are defined based on the combination of polysaccharides present in the capsule that covers the microorganism.
In conventional vaccines, this combination of molecules will determine the antigen that, when introduced into the body, induces the formation of antibodies.
The new vaccine is able to activate the immune response regardless of the bacterial serotype.
For the scientist, in addition, it is important to develop a pneumonia vaccine that is affordable and that works for all serotypes of the disease, something that is achieved with the cellular vaccine developed at the University of Butantan.
According to Cerqueira, it is estimated that the price of the vaccine can reach about 2 dollars.
Currently, the vaccine that is applied against pneumonia costs about $ 60 in the private network and about $ 15 in the public network in Brazil.