Group B streptococcus (Streptococcus agalactiae; GBS), is a clinically important pathogen that affects neonates and young infants up to 3 months. It can cause life threatening disease, leading to neonatal sepsis and meningitis. It is especially a burden in low-income countries where regular screening and access to antibiotics is limited. The global burden of GBS disease is currently estimated to be over 300,000 cases of neonatal disease and 90,000 deaths.
There are several vaccines in development to meet the challenge posed by GBS disease, with the lead candidates being multivalent capsular polysaccharide conjugate vaccines. The vaccines are intended to be administered during pregnancy to protect the baby before and during birth via placental antibody transfer. At the NIBSC, we support this global effort through development of essential standards and novel research.
Our standards programme aims to provide support for vaccine research and development across the GBS community. Hence our projects are developed together with a wide network of collaborators including academics, industry and public bodies including the international GBS consortium and are primarily funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Since May 2017 we have undertaken a programme to establish reference reagents to support GBS immunoassay development and harmonisation across the GBS community to facilitate the licensure of the GBS vaccines currently in development. This project was carried out within the remit of the international GBS consortium. As a result, we have established poly-L-lysine conjugated GBS capsular polysaccharide reagents for serotypes Ia, Ib, II, III, IV and V. The conjugates prepared are used as reference reagents in multiplex luminex immunoassays to determine serum antibody levels in clinical trials and in sero-epidemiological studies. Access to these materials is currently limited to consortium members only.
We intend to prepare the first World Health Organization (WHO) international human serum standard against the 6 GBS capsular polysaccharides (Ia, Ib, II, II, IV and V) that will be used by the GBS research community. This project was endorsed by the WHO Expert Committee for Biological Standards (ECBS) in Oct 2016 (published in TRS 1004). Through this project, we aim to provide freely available human reference serum standard for the GBS community. We also hope to develop an anti-GBS CPS enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which would provide an affordable immunoassay for use as an alternative to the multiplex Luminex assay.
In addition to our standardisation activities we have an active and ambitious GBS research programme. Our research aim is to increase vaccine coverage and efficiency through investigation of novel vaccine candidates and carrier proteins and understand the role of mucosal immunity in the prevention of GBS colonisation.
We are always open to new collaborations on any GBS-related project. If interested, please get in touch and we will be happy to discuss.
We welcome opportunities to share our expertise and can provide training on immunoassays, cell-based assays and physicochemical analysis of vaccine candidates.
We also offer placement opportunities for students, however we are unable to provide funding. If you are a student with funding and would like to do a placement with our group, please contact us.
Fatme Mawas – Principal ScientistArif Felek – Senior ScientistManolya Saydam – Scientist