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CAREPNEUMO aims to control antibiotic resistant diseases

Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) triggers health problems for people worldwide. Key contributing factors are antibiotic resistance among pneumococcal strains that keep intensifying and existing vaccines, though effective, can lead to serotype replacement (i.e. when we ...

Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) triggers health problems for people worldwide. Key contributing factors are antibiotic resistance among pneumococcal strains that keep intensifying and existing vaccines, though effective, can lead to serotype replacement (i.e. when we eliminate bacteria with a vaccine, we 'force' the emergence of other bacteria). For a team of EU-funded researchers, novel intervention strategies are needed to fight antibiotic resistant S. pneumoniae. With almost EUR 3 million in funding, the CAREPNEUMO project is determined to deliver results. Leading the study is the Department of Microbial Pathogenicity at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Germany. The CAREPNEUMO consortium, comprising 13 research institutions from 10 nations in Europe, Asia and South America, are working to develop new antibiotics and vaccines to fight pneumococcal infection. High-risk targets for pneumococcal diseases are children, the elderly and patients with immunodeficiency. The partners have split the research into three sub-projects: the first focuses on the identification and characterisation of pneumococcal serotypes (i.e. subspecies), while the second covers pneumococcal escape of the human immune system, and investigation of the induction of pneumonia. The final project targets the development of improved vaccine and intervention strategies. Pneumonia infections, triggered primarily by S. pneumoniae, affect populations in both developed and developing countries, according to the researchers. Each year, Germany records the deaths of 60,000 people from this disease, and 'in France and Spain, about half of the pneumococcal isolates are resistant against at least one antibiotic', explained HZI's Professor Singh Chhatwal. While pneumococcal vaccines are available, they cannot cover the serotypes that number over 90. And the vaccines mediate only partial protection, research has shown. 'While vaccination reduces spreading of these serotypes, it has unfortunately led to the appearance of uncommon pneumococcal serotypes,' Professor Chhatwal said. 'In addition, in Germany and the United States for example, the prevalent serotypes are different to those serotypes commonly found in India, which complicates worldwide treatment and prevention strategies,' he added. 'Therefore, we have to find alternatives for treatment and prevention of pneumococcal infections.' The three-year project will generate knowledge based on epidemiology and host-pathogen interaction so as to control the diseases caused by antibiotic strains of S. pneumoniae, as well as to develop new treatment and vaccine strategies. The development of a new generation of antimicrobials and a new polysaccharide-glycolipid conjugate pneumococcal vaccine are in the spotlight, and the serotypes identified from epidemiological studies are going to be considered in the intervention studies. In the past decade, the EU has granted more than EUR 200 million to research institutions to study antimicrobial resistance. The focus of the research is on five main approaches: basic phenomena of drug resistance; epidemiological research; translational research; point-of-care diagnostic tests; and early anti-infective drug discovery and innovation in Europe.

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