Targeted relief for bacteria-driven eczema flares in children

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have identified new cellular targets for a vaccine against eczema driven by the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium

Max Ryan

June 3, 2024

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  • A team from TCD investigating how the immune response works in cases of eczema driven by the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium have claimed to have identified new cellular targets for a vaccine.

    “There is a real need for new options to treat and prevent infected flares of eczema in children. Current strategies are limited in their success and the effects may be short-term as symptoms often return. Although antibiotics are needed in some cases, scientists are trying hard to deliver alternative options due to the growing problems posed by antimicrobial resistance,” said Dr Julianne Clowry, consultant dermatologist, visiting research fellow at TCD, and lead author of the study.

    “In combination, these factors make a tailored vaccine a very attractive target as it could limit the severity of eczema, lead to better longer-lasting outcomes, and reduce the need for antibiotics – all while also reducing the risk of complications and potentially the development of other atopic diseases, such as hayfever and asthma.”

    The researchers, from Trinity’s Schools of Medicine, Computer Science and Statistics, as well as from Biochemistry and Immunology, uncovered important “immune signatures” in children with infected flares of eczema. Pinpointing these signatures provides them with specific new targets, which is helpful from a theoretical vaccine design perspective.

    Working with 93 children between the ages of 0 and 16 years, the researchers compared immune responses between three groups of patients: eczema and a confirmed S. aureus skin infection, eczema but no S. aureus skin infection, and a healthy group of volunteers. 

    The key discovery was that the proportions of certain immune cells, known as ‘T cells’, as well as other biomarkers, varied considerably in the different groups. There are many different types of T cells in our bodies but they all play unique roles in our immune response, helping to regulate the way we respond to infections. 

    This main result highlights that the immune response was impacted in those with infected flares of eczema – with the suppression of some of the important T cells that drive an effective immune response. These findings provide an early blueprint in developing future therapies which could provide targeted effective relief from recurrent flares of eczema.

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