Two UCSB scientists have developed a vaccine with the potential to protect against 2,500 strains of salmonella.

In their paper — set to appear in the Journal of Infection and Immunity next month — UCSB researchers Douglas Heithoff and Michael Mahan explain their approach to formulating the bacteria repelling immunization. Their discovery, funded by the National Institute of Health and the United States Department of Agriculture, could put an end to the 1.5 million outbreaks of salmonella that occur in the United States each year.

Mahan said the disease, which causes food and blood poisoning in victims, impacts all segments of the population.

“It’s endemic worldwide,” Mahan said in a press release. “It’s not a carnivore issue — it’s everybody’s issue, since fruits and vegetables are often the source of infection.”

According to the press release, the vaccine operates by disarming a genetic switch, thereby preventing the contraction of a wide spectrum of salmonella. Specifically, the vaccination promotes the creation of antibodies and immune cells that collaborate to combat bacteria, blocking a significant portion of the various strands of the disease. In addition, unlike conventional vaccines, the new immunization does not contribute to the decline of patients’ immune systems.

Mahan said such breakthrough discoveries in proactive immunizations are very important scientific breakthroughs.

“Vaccines are great,” Mahan said in a press release. “Second to water sanitation, they are the best medical invention of mankind.”

In the press release, Heithoff said the vaccine is currently being tested on livestock to ensure safety standards are upheld.

“The immunization of livestock can help human health by promoting food safety,” Heithoff said. “Of course, the three principle issues for vaccines will always be safety, safety, safety — and we have put a lot of effort into it.”

–Staff Report