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Strep A vaccine target identified for global use

Researchers use high-throughput DNA sequencing technology to identify a potential vaccine target for Strep A.

Researchers have sequenced the DNA of more than 2,000 Group A Streptococcus samples from around the globe in order to identify a potential vaccine candidate.

The study revealed the differences between strains from 22 countries including the UK, Australia and India and identified a common gene signature in almost all global Strep A strains. The study was led by researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Cambridge, the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and the University of Queensland, Australia.

Dr Mark Davies, lead author from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and University of Melbourne’s Doherty Institute, said: “Using large-scale genomic sequencing, we identified the existence of more than 290 genetically different lineages of clinically important Strep A, highlighting the challenges of designing an effective global vaccine.

“However, using all the data we collected, we narrowed down common genes in almost all strains of Strep A globally. This is a tremendous step forward in identifying what may work as a global vaccine candidate.”

Currently, there is no effective vaccine for Strep A and development has been hindered by the variety of Strep A strains.

Another challenge is that little research has been conducted into Strep A in low-income countries, where it is most prominent, meaning that current vaccine candidates may not be effective in all areas.

Professor Gordon Dougan, an author from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and University of Cambridge, said: “Millions of people around the world are affected by Strep A. It can cause a range of conditions, from sore throats and outbreaks of scarlet fever in the UK, to infections leading to rheumatic heart disease in populations such as the Australian Aboriginal population.”

“In addition to aiding research into a vaccine, genomic data from our study will help researchers understand how Strep A causes disease and why it is different in high-income areas to endemic regions,” Dougan continued.

The findings were published in Nature Genetics.

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