Harvard medical School researchers this week completed the first phase of development of a vaccine that could potentially prevent the death or disability of 12,000 or more infants each year from Group B streptococcus infections, the major cause of meningitis in newborn babies.
Dr. Dennis L. Kasper, assistant professor of Medicine at the Medical School, and Dr. Carol J. Baker, a former post-doctoral fellow at Harvard, successfully demonstrated their vaccine's ability to produce antibodies against the major strain of Group B infections without harmful side effects in people, Kasper said yesterday.
Kasper and Baker have been researching streptococcus vaccines for four years, and licensing and distribution of their vaccine is probably at least five years in the future, Kasper said.
Group B streptococcus infections strike four of every 1000 babies, about 15,000 cases a year. Thirty per cent of those infected die despite antibiotic therapy, and many that live suffer severe neurologic disorders.
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