May 24, 2024

Tailored Vaccine A Promising Approach to Combat Bacteria-Driven Eczema Flare-ups in Children

New research from a team of experts at Trinity College Dublin suggests that a customized vaccine could potentially treat bacterial outbreaks of eczema in children. The team’s findings have been published in JCI Insight.

The researchers have made significant strides in understanding the immune response to eczema, specifically in cases where it is caused by the common bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. This understanding has led them to identify new targets for a vaccine.

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, affects approximately one in four children in Ireland. Symptoms include itchy, dry skin, and bacterial infections that can lead to weeping wounds, severe infections, and a negative impact on the quality of life of patients and their families. Although rare, life-threatening complications such as septicemia may occur.

Current treatment methods for bacterial eczema are limited in their success and may only provide temporary relief. Antibiotics are sometimes necessary, but scientists are seeking alternative options due to the growing issue of Antimicrobial resistance. A tailored vaccine could potentially reduce the severity of eczema, provide better long-term outcomes, and decrease the need for antibiotics while minimizing the risk of complications and other atopic diseases, such as hay fever and asthma.

The researchers, from Trinity’s Schools of Medicine, Computer Science and Statistics, Biochemistry and Immunology, discovered distinct immune signatures in children with bacterial eczema flare-ups. Identifying these signatures offers new targets for vaccine design.

The team studied 93 children aged 0 to 16, comparing immune responses between three groups: eczema with confirmed S. aureus skin infection, eczema without S. aureus skin infection, and a healthy control group.

The researchers found that the proportions of certain T cells, as well as other biomarkers, varied significantly between the groups. T cells are a type of immune cell that plays a unique role in regulating the immune response.

This discovery indicates that the immune response is altered in children with bacterial eczema flare-ups, with the suppression of specific T cells that are crucial for an effective immune response. These findings serve as an early foundation for developing future therapies that could provide targeted, effective relief from recurrent eczema flare-ups.

Professor Alan Irvine, Trinity’s Professor of Dermatology, stated, “The relationship between Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and eczema has been recognized for decades, but new scientific approaches continue to uncover key insights into this complex relationship. Our work reveals new discoveries about how children with eczema respond immunologically to infection with this common bacterium.”

Professor Rachel McLoughlin, Trinity’s Professor in Immunology and senior author on the study, added, “Our work has identified an overall pattern of immune suppression associated with bacterial eczema flare-ups, which results in the suppression of specific T cells that are essential for initiating an effective immune response. Further research is now required to expand upon these results, including investigating the consistency of these patterns among different age groups and in sub-groups with greater ethnic diversity.”

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