Unlike existing anti-pneumococcal vaccines, Curtiss' RASV may be given orally and acts to stimulate mucosal, humoral and cellular immunity, offering enhanced protection. Diseases due to Streptococcus pneumoniae include community-acquired pneumonia, otitis media, meningitis, and bacteremia, and are responsible for some 10 million fatalities per year. Pneumonia poses a particular threat to newborns and the elderly, who may fail to mount an effective immune response after receiving current anti-pneumococcal vaccines.
The current experiments planned for Atlantis' final mission represent an interesting twist in Nickerson's research into microbial virulence and modes of infection, which she has pursued with longtime collaborator Mark Ott, a senior microbiologist at the Johnson Space Center and a Co-Investigator on the RASV flight experiment. Again, the pathogen of choice is Salmonella, but here, the invader has been genetically re-engineered to protect from infectious disease, rather than to cause it. The outcome of this research has the potential for better protecting astronauts, who are keenly vulnerable to infection during spaceflight, as well as to help engineer better therapeutics for infectious diseases on earth.
Specially designed growth chambers containing the vaccine strain will travel with Shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station. During spaceflight, crewmembers will activate the samples, while simultaneously, an earthbound sample will be grown under otherwise identical conditions. The spaceflight cultured RASV strain, upon its return, will be evaluated against the control sample and analyzed for its ability to protect against pneumococcal
|Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer|
Arizona State University