Since their initial introduction, PCV vaccines have been crucial in protecting children and adults from certain infectious diseases. But what does the future of PCV vaccines look like? What can we expect? All we know is that the future of PCV is looking brighter than ever. With new technology and advances in research, the possibilities for preventing deadly diseases caused by pneumococcal bacteria have increased significantly. Researchers are working on developing new vaccines that can cover more serotypes of pneumococcal bacteria and prevent more cases of pneumococcal disease. PCV vaccines have already significantly impacted reducing pneumococcal disease in children and adults. Newer vaccines that can cover more serotypes of pneumococcal bacteria may offer even more excellent protection and benefits. Researchers are working on developing new vaccines that can cover more serotypes. In this blog post, we’ll explore what to expect from PCV vaccines in the years ahead, including advances in efficacy, new vaccine formulations, and other exciting developments of pneumococcal vaccines and discuss the potential benefits associated with them.
Current Situation of PCVs
With approximately 2 million fatalities from pneumonia each year, streptococcus pneumonia is an important pathogen, especially in infants and the elderly. Based on the distinctive antigen structure of the capsular polysaccharide, almost 100 different pneumococcal serotypes have been found to date. Each has its own characteristics, including adaptability for nasopharyngeal carriage and potential for invasive illness. However, the PCV vaccinations available today only protect against a limited group of pneumococcal serotypes and are ineffective against non-vaccinated serotypes and unconjugated S. pneumoniae. For instance, three distinct forms of PCVs—PCV13, PCV15, and PCV20—are currently suggested for various individuals according to their age and general health.
Pneumococcus serotypes 1, 3, 4, 5, 6A, 6B, 7F, 9V, 14, 18C, 19A, 19F, and 23F, which are various bacterial strains that can cause pneumococcal illness, are among the thirteen serotypes of pneumococcus that make up PCV13. The 15 in PCV15 denotes that it contains fifteen serotypes of pneumococcus, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6A, 6B, 7F, 9V, 14, 18C, 19A, 19F, 22F, 23F and 33F, which are distinct types of bacteria that can cause pneumococcal illness. Pneumococcus serotypes 1, 3, 4, 5, 6A, 6B, 7F, 9V, 14, 18C, 19A, 19F, 22F, 23F, and 33F, which are 20 various bacterial strains that can cause pneumococcal illness, are included in the PCV20 vaccine. Indeed, another pneumococcal vaccination known as PPV (Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine) protects against 23 different pneumococcus serotypes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6B, 7F, 8, 9N, 9V, 10A, 11A, 12F, 14, 15B, 17F, 18C, 19A, 19F, 20, 22F, 23F, and 33F. As you can see, only a number of serotypes are protected by each of the available vaccines.
As mentioned above, PCV vaccines are only effective against limited and the most common strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that cause serious diseases, including meningitis, pneumonia, and bloodstream infections. Unfortunately, there are many other strains that can still cause such illness, especially in areas where the vaccine is not widely used. This means that even vaccinated individuals can still get pneumococcal disease, although their symptoms may be milder. On the other hand, the high cost of PCV vaccines is a major barrier to their widespread use, especially in low-income countries with the highest disease burden. To address this, many efforts should be made to reduce the cost of vaccine production and distribution. Some approaches include government subsidies, technology transfer to developing countries, and partnerships between pharmaceutical companies and international organizations to make the vaccine more affordable. And the other approach is developing new manufacturing processes that reduce the vaccine’s cost as well as producing vaccines that can provide broad protection against most strains of the bacteria.
Due to the current PCV vaccines’ high cost and limited expansion potential, it is important to explore alternative strategies for producing pneumococcal vaccines. These include Protein-Based vaccines, which use proteins from the bacteria to stimulate the immune system, and mRND technology, which enables the encoding of specific proteins from the pneumococcal bacteria, which can then be used to stimulate an immune response in the body, leading to the production of antibodies that can recognize and neutralize the pneumococcal bacteria. Nanotechnology has the potential to create highly targeted vaccines, while DNA technology allows for the production of vaccines using genetic engineering. By exploring these alternative strategies, researchers hope to overcome the limitations of current PCV vaccines and create more effective and accessible pneumococcal vaccines.
One of the technologies that can receive attention in producing pneumococcal vaccines is using protein antigens. A vaccine based on protein antigens would be able to protect against all Spn, considering the selection of highly conserved proteins that must be present in most clinical isolates. It’s worth noting that some protein antigens can be recognized by the immune system independently of phase variation, and several have been considered as potential antigens for a new generation of vaccines Pneumococcal histidine triad protein D (PhtD); Pneumolysin (Ply); Pneumococcal surface protein A (PspA); and Pneumococcal choline-binding protein A (PcpA). The benefits of such a protein-based vaccine would be:
- Broader protection: Current pneumococcal vaccines are based on polysaccharide antigens, which only target a limited number of pneumococcal strains. Protein-based vaccines, on the other hand, can provide broader protection against a wider range of pneumococcal strains.
- Increased effectiveness: Protein-based vaccines may be more effective than polysaccharide-based vaccines, particularly in certain populations such as older adults and immunocompromised individuals who may not respond as well to polysaccharide vaccines.
- Lower risk of side effects: Protein-based vaccines are generally well-tolerated and have a lower risk of causing adverse reactions compared to polysaccharide-based vaccines.
- Potential for reduced antibiotic use: By reducing the incidence of pneumococcal infections, protein-based vaccines could reduce the use of antibiotics, which can help to slow the spread of antibiotic resistance.
- Cost-effectiveness: Protein-based vaccines may be more cost-effective in the long term compared to polysaccharide-based vaccines, particularly if they provide longer-lasting protection and require fewer booster doses.
While mRNA technology is not currently used in the production of pneumococcal vaccines, it has the potential to be a powerful tool in the development of new vaccines in the future, especially after its use in Covid-19 vaccines. mRNA technology involves creating a synthetic version of the genetic material that codes for a particular protein, such as a protein found on the surface of a virus or bacteria. When the mRNA is injected into the body, it enters cells and instructs them to produce the protein encoded by the mRNA. This protein then triggers an immune response, priming the body to recognize and fight off the actual virus or bacteria if it enters the body in the future. In the case of pneumococcal vaccines, mRNA technology could be used to create synthetic mRNA that encodes for proteins found on the surface of the pneumococcal bacteria. These proteins could be selected to target a wide range of strains of pneumococcus, potentially providing broader protection than current pneumococcal vaccines. However, it is essential to note that mRNA technology is still a relatively new approach to vaccine development. Further research and clinical trials would be needed to determine its safety and effectiveness in pneumococcal vaccines. In the following, you will see several potential benefits of mRNA-based vaccines over traditional ones:
- High efficacy: mRNA vaccines have high efficacy rates, with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines demonstrating over 90% efficacy in clinical trials. This means that vaccines based on mRNA have the potential to provide strong protection against pneumococcal disease.
- Quick development: The mRNA technology allows for a faster development process compared to traditional vaccines, as the vaccine can be produced without the need for growing live viruses or bacteria in the culture. This means that if a new strain of pneumococcal bacteria emerges, an mRNA vaccine can be quickly developed and produced.
- Reduced risk of side effects: mRNA vaccines are non-infectious, meaning that they do not contain live bacteria or viruses. This reduces the risk of side effects associated with traditional vaccines that use live or weakened pathogens.
- Increased accessibility: mRNA vaccines are relatively easy to produce, and the technology can be adapted to produce a range of different vaccines. This could potentially increase accessibility to pneumococcal vaccines, particularly in developing countries where access to traditional vaccines may be limited.
The first vaccine using nanotechnology received its authorization during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nanotechnology has the potential to revolutionize the development and production of pneumococcal vaccines in several ways. Its formulation also makes it possible to work with more than one antigen. Nanotechnology-based pneumococcal vaccines will have:
- Improved efficacy: Nanoparticles can be designed to mimic the shape and size of the pneumococcal bacteria, which can help to stimulate a stronger immune response. This may lead to improved efficacy compared to traditional vaccines.
- Reduced dosage: Because nanoparticles are designed to be more efficient at stimulating an immune response, it may be possible to achieve the same level of protection with a lower dose of the vaccine.
- Increased stability: Nanoparticles can be engineered to be more stable than traditional vaccines, which can help extend the vaccine’s shelf life and make it more accessible in regions where cold storage is difficult.
- Targeted delivery: Nanoparticles can be designed to target specific cells in the body, which can help improve the vaccine’s efficiency and reduce the risk of side effects.
- Adjuvant-free: Nanoparticles can be engineered to act as their own adjuvant, which can eliminate the need for additional adjuvants that may cause unwanted side effects.
DNA Technology will be another strategy for producing future pneumococcal vaccines. It has the potential to improve the efficacy and effectiveness of pneumococcal vaccines. DNA vaccines involve injecting a small piece of DNA into the body that codes for a specific antigen (a protein found on the surface of the pathogen). The body then produces the antigen, triggering an immune response. On the other hand, DNA sequencing technologies can be used to analyze the genetic material of pneumococcal bacteria and identify specific genes that encode virulence factors or antigenic proteins. This information can be used to develop more targeted vaccines that are effective against a broader range of pneumococcal strains. Some of the benefits of using DNA technology in pneumococcal vaccines are as follows:
- High efficacy: DNA vaccines can stimulate a strong immune response by encoding specific proteins from pneumococcal bacteria. This may lead to improved efficacy compared to traditional vaccines.
- Easy to produce: DNA vaccines can be produced relatively quickly and inexpensively compared to traditional vaccines, which can help to increase accessibility to pneumococcal vaccines.
- Stability: DNA vaccines are relatively stable and do not require cold storage or adjuvants to maintain their potency, which can reduce the cost and logistical challenges associated with vaccine distribution.
- Customizability: DNA vaccines can be easily customized to target specific strains of pneumococcal bacteria, which can help to increase their effectiveness.
- Safety: DNA vaccines do not contain live bacteria or viruses, which reduces the risk of adverse reactions compared to traditional vaccines.
Biosimilar technology can help produce pneumococcal vaccines by providing a more cost-effective and efficient way of producing the vaccines. Biosimilars are similar but not identical versions of biological vaccines, which are produced using living organisms, and they can help reduce the cost of producing and distributing vaccines. In the case of pneumococcal vaccines, biosimilar technology can be used to produce the antigens needed for the vaccine. The antigens are the components of the vaccine that stimulate the immune system to respond against the bacterium. Using biosimilar technology, the antigens can be produced in large quantities, and the process can be standardized, ensuring consistency in the quality of the vaccine. This can help reduce the vaccine’s cost, making it more accessible to people who need it. In addition, biosimilar technology can help increase the availability of pneumococcal vaccines in developing countries, where there is often a shortage of vaccines.
By making vaccines more affordable and easier to produce, biosimilar technology can help save lives and prevent the spread of pneumococcal infections. The OBP company is currently attempting to create pneumococcal biosimilar vaccinations using its cutting-edge technologies. Since biosimilar vaccines are less expensive than biological samples, more people can benefit from them. In fact, the biological vaccines produced by companies like OBP help ensure that a small group of people does not continue to hold control of these vaccines.
In conclusion, the development of PCV vaccines has been a significant milestone in the prevention of pneumococcal diseases, especially among vulnerable populations such as young children and the elderly. Over the years, we have witnessed significant improvements in the efficacy of these vaccines and a reduction in the incidence of pneumococcal diseases. However, despite the success of current PCV vaccines, challenges still need to be addressed to improve their effectiveness. The emergence of new pneumococcal strains not covered by existing vaccines and the potential for vaccine-resistant strains to develop highlight the need for continued research and development in this area. The future of PCV vaccines holds promise as we develop more comprehensive vaccines that cover a wider range of pneumococcal strains. Furthermore, the increasing demand for effective and affordable vaccines in developing countries and the growing burden of pneumococcal diseases provides a unique opportunity for the global community to come together and address this public health challenge.