Sweet spot for therapeutic antibodies: the illustration above shows the three-dimensional structure of the sugar molecule PS-I of C. difficile (orange: carbon; red: oxygen; white: hydrogen).Credit: MPI of Colloids and Interfaces
A vaccine against one of the most dangerous hospital germs may soon be available. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam and the Freie Universität Berlin have developed a substance that elicits an immune response against the gut bacterium Clostridium difficile. The potential vaccine resembles the sugar structures presented on the surface of the bacterium and therefore primes the immune system to recognize the pathogen itself.C. difficile infects a large proportion of patients in hospitals and kills around 15,000 people a year in the USA alone. Doctors could treat the infection with antibiotics, but the bacterium mutates constantly, allowing it to escape the effects of the drugs. The discovery by the Max Planck researchers may pave the way for developing inexpensive and effective vaccines and drugs against C. difficile.