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Halifax researchers testing vaccine for strep throat

WATCH ABOVE: Hundreds of Maritimers fall sick to strep throat and other strep infections every year. It can often be a very painful condition. Now a Halifax hospital is looking into easing that pain. Julia Wong explains.

HALIFAX – A vaccine to prevent strep throat and other forms of strep infection is being tested at the IWK.

The Canadian Centre for Vaccinology is the only site in the world testing the vaccine StreptAnova.

“We’re really the first people to be using this vaccine, hopefully and ultimately leading to its approval and use in children around the world,” said lead investigator Dr. Shelly McNeil.

The hospital is recruiting 45 healthy adults for the phase one trial. Participants will receive three doses of the vaccine over six months.

“We’re watching for local injection site reaction, any severe reaction that people could have to the vaccine, ” McNeil said.

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“We’re also measuring their blood levels of antibodies against Group A Strep over the course of the study to make sure the vaccine actually does tell the immune system to make antibodies.”

McNeil estimates 60,000 Canadians become inflicted with strep throat or another form of strep infection every year.

She said strep throat is the most common infection but notes the bacteria is also responsible for flesh-eating disease and pneumonia and can cause unusual complications such as rheumatic fever and kidney inflammation.

McNeil said the vaccine being tested could help prevent those severe cases but also be used as a childhood vaccine to prevent strep throat.

“It is a leading cause of visits to doctors. It’s a leading cause of antibiotic use,” she said.

McNeil said that if the vaccine proves successful, it will go onto a phase two or three trial, which could involve altering the vaccine’s dosage or expanding the number of participants.

Strep throat patients intrigued by vaccine

Bill Zebedee, 47, first had strep throat as a child. He has since had it close to a dozen times.

“A lot of people equate it to having razor blades in your throat,” he said.

“But I’d say add a chaser of broken glass after that. It’s really nasty.”

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Zebedee is excited there may be a possible vaccine for the infection.

“I’m going to be closely watching it. As somebody who suffers from it, it’s something I’m obviously very keen and interested in. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”

Heather Turetzek signed up to be a participant in the trial on Thursday. The 26-year-old had strep throat as a teenager and said she was out sick for about a week.

“It was painful. It’s unpleasant. You have to take antibiotics. I would just rather not have it,” she said.

Researchers plan to deliver the first doses of the vaccine in the coming weeks and expect the first results early next year.

 

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