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VacTrain topics



Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection

Cytomegaloviruses (CMV) occur worldwide. Infected person remain virus carrier for the rest of there life and can transmit the virus to others. Carriership increases with age; about 90% of individuals aged 80 and older is carrier. The basis for this carriership is an ongoing battle between the immune system of the host and sophisticated viral strategies  that evade and suppress the host immune system. In most people the infection is symptomless. But in immune compromised patients and neonates and unborn babies with an immature immune system serieus disease occurs. In view of the very high burdenof disease the development of a vaccine against CMV disease is a global top priority.




Influenza is caused by a virus that continuously changes. This is the reason that vaccines against seasonal  influenza have to be updated each year to match circulating virus strains. In addition to the gradual changes in the circulating virus, complete new  virus strains originate from time to time. They result from exchange of genetic material of animal and human viruses. When the strains will pop up, how fast they will spread and what the Case Fatality Rate (%age of infected persons that die) is impossible to predict. Therefore there is a clear need of ‘universal’vaccines that protect against a wide range of virus strains.



Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis is a common disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Most infections attack the lungs. 15 to 20% of active cases spread outside the lungs. The BCG vaccine, consisting of life attenuated bacteria protects only partially. It is given early in life in developing countries where the disease is most prevalent. M. tuberculosis is able to counteract and evade the immune system. About one third of the world's population is infected with M. tuberculosis but only 1% of the carriers develops the disease. However, in immune compromised persons, e.g. after HIV infection, this is much higher. Also in view of the increasing resistance of M. tuberculosis there is a great need for a vaccine. 



Staphylococcus aureus infection

Staphylococcus aureus is a commensal bacterium present on the human skin and respiratory tract. From these niches it can spread and caus minor skins infections but also life-threatening  diseases (meningitis, pneumonia, endocarditis, osteomyelitis, sepsis and toxic shock syndrome). It is also a main cause of hospital infections, usually by postsurgical wound infections. The increase in MRSA (Methicillin-resistant  S. aureus) has increased the pressure on vaccine development.



Lyme disease


Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis) is an infectious disease caused by the Borrelia bacteria and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. There are foci of Lyme disease in forested areas of Asia, north-western, central and eastern Europe, and the USA. Typical systoms of Lyme infection include fever, myalgia, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans (an expanding ring form, often with a central clear zone). Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. In case diagnosis and/or treatment are too late or treatment fails, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system to cause arthritis, carditis, peripheral neuropathy and/or encephalomyelitis. In 2002, a human Lyme vaccine was withdrawn from the market due to negative media coverage and fears for adverse effects. New vaccines for humans are being researched. Effective vaccines are, however, available for dogs.   




Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. However, Asia, Latin America, and to a lesser extent the Middle East and parts of Europe are also affected. In the human body, the Plasmodium parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells. Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting. Infections should be treated at early stages to be effective. If left untreated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs. In 2010 an estimated 219 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 660,000 people died, most (91%) in the African Region. Key interventions to control malaria include the use of insecticidal nets by people at risk, and indoor residual spraying with insecticide to control the vector mosquitoes. In many parts of the world, the parasites have developed resistance to a number of malaria medicines. There are currently no licensed vaccines against malaria.



Systems Vaccinology

Systems vaccinology is a special case of systems biology. Systems biology tries to describe the complex interactions between all parts in a biological system, with the aim to elucidate the rules that predict the behavior of the biological system. It differs from the reductionistic approach in which biological components (e.g. a gene/protein or a cell type) are studied in isolation. Systems biology requires an integration between experimental research and computer science. Systems vaccinology offers the unique possibility of analyzing the immunological network of complex events and interactions after vaccination. This approach can help to accelerate vaccine development by identifying predictors of immunogenicity and adverse effects.    



Vaccine Adjuvants

Adjuvants (from Latin, adiuvare: to aid) are pharmacological or immunological agents that modify the effect of other agents. Adjuvants are inorganic or organic chemicals, macromolecules or entire cells of certain killed bacteria, which enhance and improve the immune responses to antigens mediated by B and T lymphocytes. They are included in vaccines to enhance the recipient's immune response by acting as a depot for the antigen or as an irritant, extending the presence of the antigen in the blood, helping absorb the antigen presenting cells, activating macrophages and lymphocytes, or supporting the production of cytokines. The most commonly used adjuvants include aluminum hydroxide and paraffin oil.



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