New weapons in the fight against epidemics

"Day of Immunology" on April 29, 2006

Bacterium Helicobacter pylori MPI for infection biology
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A quarter of all deaths worldwide are still due to infectious diseases. Many pathogens are now resistant to traditional vaccines. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology are therefore developing new vaccines against tuberculosis and the stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori and have already reported initial successes.

On the "Day of Immunology" on April 29, 2006, the disease experts of the Max Planck Society and other scientific organizations throughout Europe will provide information on the state of immunological research. Not only do they want to draw attention to the latest scientific findings, but they also want to sensitize the public and politicians throughout Europe to the importance of this field of research.

Once again, vaccines save more than 10 million lives worldwide this year - and at a lower cost than any other medical intervention. The success of vaccinations in those countries where vaccination programs are consistently carried out is impressive. However, this is only half the story - it is a success story of the industrialized countries that leads to misjudging the global problem of infectious diseases.

Statistics from the World Health Organization WHO in recent years show that about 25 percent of all deaths are caused by infectious diseases. The possibilities to prevent infectious diseases caused by traditional vaccines are largely exhausted.

New vaccines against Helicobacter and tuberculosis?

At the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, scientists are therefore working on the development of a new vaccine against the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. For his discovery in the early 1980s, the two Australians Robin Warren and Barry Marshall were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine last year. The scientists of the Department of Molecular Biology of Professor Thomas F. Meyer try to uncover the strategies with which this pathogen overrides the host's defense mechanisms. display

About half of the world's population is infected with Helicobacter pylori. The bacterium causes stomach cancer, the world's second most common malignant tumor. Although very little is known about the immunological defense mechanisms in the stomach, the researchers around Meyer first successes in the development of a vaccine against Helicobacter pylori.

The scientists from the department of Professor Stefan H. Kaufmann were also able to present in August 2005, a new vaccine against tuberculosis, which has led to hopeful vaccination results in initial studies and is expected to enter late 2006 / early 2007 in clinical trials.

Day of Immunology since 2005

It was Kaufmann who, as Vice President of the European Federation of Immunological Societies (EFIS), first launched the Day of Immunology in 2005. The immunologists want to draw attention to the importance of their discipline for the health of man.

This year, the Day of Immunology on April 29, 2006 is aimed specifically at young people, students and teachers. Under the motto "immunologists go to the schools", researchers want to arouse understanding for the complex processes that protect the body against constant attacks by viral and bacterial pathogens.

The Max Planck Society has prepared a BIOMAX "Microbes Checkmated - Researchers Raised Tuberculosis Vaccine" on the subject, from which free copies for school lessons are delivered. For the "Helicobacter vaccine for stomach cancer" there is a film produced by Deutsche Welle, which can also be accessed via the website of the MPG.

"Questions about avian influenza, vaccination and personal well-being concern young people across Europe, providing an excellent opportunity to raise students' understanding of immunology", thinks businessman.

(idw - MPG, 28.04.2006 - DLO)