New sepsis and meningitis vaccine to be developed in SA

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SA’s Biovac is set to develop a new vaccine to treat one of the leading causes of sepsis and meningitis in infants it has been revealed at the Innovation Effect Africa Conference at Durban’s International Convention Centre.

The Times reports that the conference‚ convened by PATH‚ an international non-governmental organisation that accelerates innovation to save lives and improve health‚ together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‚ Leapfrog Investments‚ the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and Wellcome Trust‚ brings together leaders from across sectors to explore opportunities to advance African-led innovation to improve health‚ spur economic growth and end poverty.

Dr Morena Makhoana‚ CEO of Biovac‚ a South African company that has vaccine building capabilities‚ said the announcement is a milestone as “it takes us into an innovative space and into developing products locally rather than looking to overseas. Hopefully when the product is successful we can manufacturer that particular vaccine from scratch in South Africa.” He said they aim to begin clinical trials in about four to five years.

Makhoana said said there was no licensed vaccine in the world for group B streptococcus (GBS) – which causes neonatal invasive diseases. “Not only do we have the opportunity to develop it in SA but it’s a unique vaccine. This disease is prevalent in Africa. GBS does not only result in meningitis but results in the mother being infected herself. There is a vaccine against meningitis given to children that are aged two to three. This vaccine will be given to pregnant women in order for them to protect the unborn child. GBS affects the child in the first month of life when they are most vulnerable. We want to vaccinate the mother so she passes on the antibodies to the unborn child‚” said Makhoana.

He said in the report there was growth in the data that shows that some of still birth issues may be caused by the GBS disease. “It is not just exciting. It addresses a growing disease burden that is not only in South Africa but the rest of Africa‚” he said.

The Times report

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