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Queen's scientists seek vaccine for Pseudomonas infection

Queen's University scientists working on a vaccine to combat Pseudomonas have received a major financial boost from Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICH&S).

The local charity has awarded Queen's Centre for Infection and Immunity a grant of 91,000 to help with their hunt for a vaccine.

Pseudomonas, which can be a killer in vulnerable adults and children, commonly infects the lungs of people suffering from cystic fibrosis (CF). CF damages a number of vital organs, particularly the lungs. It currently affects one in 2,500 newborn babies and Pseudomonas infection occurs in 80 per cent of adults living with CF. Currently in Northern Ireland CF affects 440 people in Northern Ireland, 190 of them children.

If a vaccine can be found, survival rates would increase for those affected by the serious genetic condition.

CF is caused by a genetic defect which results in thick, sticky mucous in the lungs, which becomes infected with bugs, in particular Pseudomonas. These bugs are almost impossible to eradicate, even with long-term antibiotics. This results in damage to the lungs, ultimately leading to early death through breathing difficulties.

Professor Stuart Elborn and Dr Rebecca Ingram, from Queen's Centre for Infection and Immunity are leading the study. Dr Ingram said: "Pseudomonas is around us all the time, and is normally cleared easily from our bodies, however, the mucus in the lungs of CF patients creates a perfect environment for the bacteria to live and multiply.

"In our study, patients' blood cells are placed on a special membrane and then mixed with different parts of the bacteria, to see if the body recognises them and so releases 'attack' molecules to deal with the infection. A dye is used to highlight the spots where this process is happening. It is the first time the technique has been used to examine human responses to Pseudomonas. Knowing which parts of the infection can most easily be recognised by the body will be a key piece in the jigsaw leading to the discovery of a vaccine."

The Chief Executive of NI Chest Heart & Stroke, Andrew Dougal, said: "Cystic fibrosis is a devastating illness primarily affecting the lungs. We are delighted to be supporting this high quality local research at Queen's, which brings hope of a Pseudomonas vaccine to improve survival rates. Often, these research grant awards are made possible only by the generosity of people who bequeath money to us in their wills. Legacies have become a vitally important source of income at a time of economic downturn".


Contact: Lisa McElroy
Queen's University Belfast

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