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Sequencing Study Leads to Vaccine Target in Bacteria Behind Neonatal Meningitis

A team from the US and France reporting in eBioMedicine describes potential immunotherapy targets in bacterial pathogens involved in neonatal meningitis. With the help of high-throughput transposon sequencing (TnSeq), the researchers searched for fitness contributors in the mutant K1 strain Escherichia coli in a mouse model of neonatal meningitis, focusing on possible vaccine candidate genes related to brain infection or systemic dissemination of the bacterial meningitis bug. From there, they performed a series of follow-up analyses on one of these candidates — a surface polysaccharide known as poly-beta-(1,6)-N-acetyl glucosamine, or PNAG — demonstrating that the virulence factor may be vulnerable to vaccine targeting in E. coli K1 and in Group B Streptococcus that can also cause neonatal meningitis. "These findings support further investigations of PNAG-targeting vaccines in at risk pregnancies and/or [monoclonal antibody] immunotherapy for at risk neonates such as the prematurely born," the authors write. "If further testing is successful, it could support human testing of this potential means to prevent serious neurologic infections in neonates.