Southampton researchers trial new vaccine to fight lung disease and save more lives

Breath test

A new vaccine could protect patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) against lung infections that worsen their condition, with the potential to save lives.

Southampton researchers, in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, are now leading the testing of a new vaccine that targets the bacteria non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi), a common cause of severe and potentially fatal lung infections in COPD patients.

This work builds on five years of collaborative studies at the NIHR BRC which identified NTHi as the key driver to deteriorations in COPD called exacerbations.

In a recent clinical trial led by University of Southampton researcher Professor Tom Wilkinson at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, the vaccine successfully triggered an immune response against the bacteria, with this protective effect still detectable a year later.

The results, published in the medical journal Vaccine, also showed participants who were vaccinated tended to have fewer events when their condition worsened compared to those who were not.

Preventing flare-ups

COPD is a chronic lung condition that causes long-term breathing difficulties, coughing and wheezing. It affects around three million people in the UK.

Lung infections can cause worsening of symptoms, known as exacerbations or flare-ups, and are often caused by NTHi bacteria.   

The trial recruited adults between 40 and 80 years old with moderate or severe COPD with a history of flare-ups, and assessed how safe the vaccine was and how effective it was at preventing flare-ups.

Professor Wilkinson, said, “These are really exciting results, as it shows we are moving in the right direction.

“COPD is a debilitating condition that causes more than three million deaths around the world every year. Exacerbations of COPD can come on very quickly and can be very harmful.

“These latest results now pave the way for further work to assess whether the vaccine against NTHi could prevent COPD exacerbations and have a positive impact on COPD symptoms and long-term outcomes for patients."

Posted on Wednesday 30 October 2019