By combining four proteins of the bacterium, Dr. Olaf Schneewind and colleagues at the University of Chicago created a the vaccine that "represents a promising step toward identifying potential components to combine into a vaccine designed for people at high risk of invasive S. aureus infection," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
S. aureus, the most common agent of hospital-acquired infection, is the leading cause of bloodstream, lower respiratory tract and skin infections. Such infections can result in a variety of illnesses, including endocarditis (inflammation of the heart), toxic-shock syndrome and food poisoning.
Research in S. aureus has taken on new urgency since, during the past few decades, the bacterium has developed resistance to traditional antibiotics. Most recently, healthy people with no apparent risk factors have been infected by extremely virulent strains of S. aureus acquired from community, rather than hospital.
A report describing the vaccine's development appears online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.