Ongoing experiments with Salmonella
bacteria aboard the International Space Station have yielded huge insights into the virulence of the pathogen and provided researchers with key clues to thwarting that virulence via the development of a human Salmonella
vaccine. Two Arizona State University teams are now carrying that research forward via a genetically altered strain of Salmonella
carrying a protective antigen against Streptococcus pneumonia
, the bug that causes meningitis, pneumonia, and bacteremia, in an effort to find an effective vaccine
for pneumonia and related pathogens.
Testing in the microgravity environment is critical. Experiments aboard the ISS have found that bacteria can grow more virulent in weightless environments--environments that are very much like the one found inside the human intestines. The Recombinant Attenuated Salmonella Vaccine, or RASV, investigation has allowed the researchers to see just how far they can push the anti-pneumococcal effectiveness of their doctored strain of Salmonella
, and thus how high they might potentially push a protective immune response in humans. The ongoing work on RASV has already yielded a promising oral vaccine candidate that is in clinical trials down here on Earth.