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Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia

RHD Resouces

High Hopes for J8-DT

Anticipation is mounting as a new vaccine that may prevent the development of acute rheumatic fever is currently being trialled in Australia.

It’s been over two decades in the making, and this year, the vaccine known as J8-DT is being tested in Australian adults.

J8-DT has been designed to induce protection against multiple strains of Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacterium; the infection (usually pharyngitis or ‘strep throat’ in children) that causes acute rheumatic fever, with repeated episodes typically leading to rheumatic heart disease.

Developed by scientist Professor Michael Good and colleagues at Griffith University in Queensland, J8-DT has been found, when tested in laboratory animals, to induce their immune system to produce antibodies that kill strep A bacteria.

Now, a trial of twenty healthy Brisbane adults has commenced, with fingers crossed for a successful outcome. "I think anticipation is the word," explains Professor Good. "That’s our hope – that it will induce antibodies and kill all strains of the germ."

The J8-DT vaccine is based on a highly conserved epitope (J8) on the M protein of GAS chemically linked to diphtheria toxoid. Over the course of a year, the twenty volunteers involved in the study will each receive two doses of the vaccine. 

 "It’s a regular vaccine," explains Professor Good. "Each participant gets what’s called a primary injection in the arm, and two months later they get a booster or follow up injection. We’ll measure their responses after that and see if they’ve made antibodies to the vaccine. That’s the first step in the process. The next step is to see whether the antibodies can kill the germ."

Antibody data is expected to be released within the next few months.

"At the moment there’s potentially three vaccine’s being trialled for RF around the world," says Professor Good. "There’s one other at a similar stage of genesis, so we’re just hoping that one of them works."

The first human trial of the vaccine has been funded by The Co-operative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, with development work funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the National Heart Foundation, the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation and the US National Institutes of Health.