Feb 26, 2010 Post By: Children's Health

Why vaccine research is important

The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a new vaccine called Prevnar 13 means parents now have a vaccine that provides broader protection against one of the main bacteria that causes infections in children up to 5 years old. The bacterium, called Streptococcus pneumoniae, can cause infections of the blood, middle ear, the covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and pneumonia.

The new vaccine covers six more types of the bacterium than the original Prevnar vaccine, which covered 7 types. However, new versions of the bacterium keep popping up, says the Children’s Medical Center head of infectious disease Dr. Jeffrey Kahn. “It is a moving target.” That is why it is so important for research into infectious diseases to continue and to be vigilant for new forms of bacterial disease than can be prevented by new vaccines, he says.

For example, when Prevnar was approved in 2000, it addressed seven types of the bacterium that caused about 80 percent of the infection and reduced the rate of the infection in infants and children caused by these seven types by 99 percent. By 2007, however, it was found that of the remaining cases of the infection, 62 percent were caused by six other types of the bacterium. These 6 types are now included in Prevnar 13.