Bacteria Becoming Increasingly Resistant To Antibiotics, But New Vaccines Are On The Horizon

nited States as well as worldwide, the pneumococcal isolates that are resistant to antibiotics have been increasing in frequency -- dramatically. Not only the frequency is increasing but the degree of resistance also is consistently becoming greater," according to Dr. Arditi. He said there is concern that clinical outcomes may decline as more strains of bacteria become increasingly resistant.

But there is hope in the near future, in the form of new vaccines against pneumococcus, said Dr. Arditi. In fact, pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccines -- which use a carbohydrate from the cells of the bacteria to provide immunity -- have been developed and are in use. However, while safe and effective for adult use, they have not worked well in protecting young children, especially those younger than two years of age. But newer vaccines -- multivalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccines -- combine vaccines against several strains of pneumococcus and attach a carrier protein.

"Infants and young children respond much better to these vaccines because of the carrier protein attached to the polysaccharide," said Dr. Arditi. He said details of the latest stages of clinical trials have started to become available and will probably be completed early in 1999. Preliminary reports indicate that the vaccines will be highly efficient in protecting those who are most vulnerable to these infections: infants and young children. A vaccine introduced 10 years ago had a major impact on what was then the most common cause of bacterial meningitis, Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib). "Since the Hib vaccine was introduced in 1989 and led to a dramatic decline in the incidence of Haemophilus influenzae meningitis, proportionally, Streptococcus pneumoniae has become the most common cause of morbidity and mortality resulting from bacterial meningitis. It also has become the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in children 1 to 23 months of age in the United Stat

Contact: Sandra Van
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

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