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New vaccine aids infants.

New vaccine aids infants

An experimental vaccine that uses a novel approach to boost immunity is proving effective against potentially fatal infections in infants, researchers report. The vaccine, not yet approved for use in the United States, is specifically engineered to protect children younger than 2 years of age against infection by the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae type b --responsible for most cases of childhood bacterial meningitis and other serious diseases in children. The only U.S.-approved Haemophilus vaccine is incapable of inducing immunity in children younger than 2, despite the fact that most cases occur in the first 24 months of life.

Researchers last week released the results of a large-scale field study in which the new vaccine was given to more than 700 infants. Results of the study, which was performed by researchers in Finland in conjunction with Toronto-based Connaught Laboratories, appear in the Sept. 17 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE.

The researchers conclude that the vaccine can reduce by 87 percent H. influenzae's yearly infection rate in children. In the United States, 18,000 such cases occur annually among children under 5, and approximately 1,000 infants die of the infection each year.

Lance K. Gordon, one of the Connaught researchers, told SCIENCE NEWS that the experimental vaccine represents the first successful application of a "carrier-hapten' approach to vaccine development. The technique uses a part of the Haemophilus bacterium that would normally stimulate only a weak immune response (a "hapten') and links it to a potent immune system stimulant, or "carrier' --in this case a protein component of diphtheria toxoid. The resulting antibody response is rich in Haemophilus-specific "memory cells' that enable infants to mount an amplified attack against the bacteria.
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Title Annotation:against infections
Author:Weiss, R.
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 26, 1987
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