Debra Bessen, Ph.D., Receives $2.9 Million NIH Grant for Preventing Strep A Infection
The Five-Year Award Will Support Dr. Bessen’s Research To Develop A Vaccine To Prevent Group A Streptococci
Debra Bessen, Ph.D., professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology, has been awarded a five-year $2,931,474 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support the discovery and design of a vaccine to prevent Group A streptococci (Strep A) infection, which annually causes more than 750 million infections and over 500,000 deaths throughout the world.
“While Strep A bacterial infections are typically mild, such as strep throat, they can turn deadly,” said Dr. Bessen. “Most school-aged children get numerous Strep A infections, but immunity gradually builds so that by the time they reach adulthood, Strep A infections are rare. This grant will support research to identify signatures in the immune response in children both before and after Strep A infections that may help define human serum correlates of protection, a key measure for effectiveness in vaccine clinical trials. Those antibodies that are predicted to protect against Strep A infection will then be experimentally validated using animal models for disease.”
This research builds on Dr. Bessen’s previous NIH-supported research into the molecular basis for Strep A skin and throat infections, antibiotic resistance in Strep A and the unique properties of strains that trigger rheumatic fever.