Researchers are one step closer to developing a safe vaccine against strep throat, which is responsible for more than 700 million infections and 500,000 deaths each year.

A study by an international team, including scientists from The University of Queensland, has shed new light on how Group A Streptococcus (strep) bacteria resists the human immune system.

Group-A Streptococcus (GAS)/CDC
Group-A Streptococcus (GAS)/CDC

The research could eventually lead to the development of a safe vaccine against strep throat, necrotising fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) and rheumatic heart disease.

UQ School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences researcher and co-lead author of the study, Dr Jason Cole, said previous efforts to develop a strep throat vaccine had resulted in immune system reactions that caused other diseases such as rheumatic fever and heart damage.

“We have discovered genes that make up the cell wall of the strep bacteria, which is composed mainly of the group A carbohydrate or GAC,” he said.

The group A carbohydrate was previously thought to play a largely structural role in the bacteria cell walls.

The study, published online in Cell Host & Microbe, was led by Professor Victor Nizet of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

Read more from the University of Queensland here