MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A medical breakthrough made in Memphis could soon protect children from a common school age disease and save lives around the world.
If you or your child ever had strep throat, you've had streptococcus-a. If a sore throat and fever were all you had, consider yourself lucky. Streptococcus-a is an ugly bug that causes a range of problems, from rheumatic fever to the so called flesh eating disease. Until now there has been no vaccine to stop it.
Parents often get strep throat from their kids, who get it from other kids. Usually it's only a trip to the doctor and a few days home from school or work. But streptococcus-a can get much worse.
Dr. Jim Dale with UT Health Sciences told abc24.com that it leads to "life threatening tissue destroying infections in people that just cannot be treated with state of the art medical facilities. About a third of the people with serious streptococcal infections die."
Dr. Dale has been working on a vaccine for more than 30 years. The new vaccine is called "Streptanova," a technological breakthrough.
"All the easy vaccines have already been made. This is not an easy vaccine," he said, calling Streptanova "the most complex genetically engineered vaccine ever given to humans. It's an extremely complex vaccine."
Dr. Dale envisions the vaccine will be given by injection to pre-schoolers.
It has already been tested on 128 people with no serious problems. Widespread clinical trials on thousands of volunteers are expected to begin next year.
Dr. Dale's research is being funded by the National Institutes of Health, and the Memphis Bio-Works Foundation has been key to putting together the investment necessary to get it to the market.
But like most things in medicine, human testing takes a long time. Dr. Dale says it could be another six to ten years before the vaccine is available to everyone.