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HEALTH REPORT - May 29, 2002: Staph Vaccine - 2002-05-28

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

American researchers say they have developed the first vaccine medicine that can prevent a staphylococcus bacterial infection.

The staphylococcus aureus bacterium is known as staph. It is a common and usually harmless bacterium that lives in a person’s body. It can cause minor skin infections and infections in wounds. However, it can be deadly if it invades the blood. It can cause the lung disease pneumonia and life-threatening blood poisoning.

Staph infections are a serious problem in American hospitals. They affect two-million people each year. About ten-million hospital patients are in danger of developing staph infections each year. These patients have weak defense systems against disease.

Doctors say the new vaccine may provide a way to prevent these serious infections in hospitals. Researchers reported their vaccine test results in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study involved more than one-thousand-eight-hundred adults at seventy-three medical centers in California. All of the patients had kidney disease and were getting kidney dialysis. This is a treatment that removes dangerous chemicals from the blood.

The researchers chose this group because dialysis patients are among the most likely to get staph infections. These patients also are least likely to get good results from a vaccine. Half of the dialysis patients received the vaccine. The other half got an inactive substance. Among the group getting the inactive substance, twenty-six people developed staph infections. Only eleven people who got the vaccine became infected.

The researchers found that one injection of the vaccine provided protection against staph for ten months. The vaccine caused the body to make new antibodies against the staph bacteria. Eighty-six percent of the patients who got the vaccine showed high levels of an antibody for the bacteria.

The vaccine is called StaphVAX. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health near Washington, D.C. created the vaccine. Scientists at the Nabi Corporation of Boca Raton, Florida, are developing the vaccine. The company paid for the study.

The company is planning another study involving a larger number of dialysis patients to confirm these results.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.