Griffith University researcher, Dr Michael Batzloff, recently gave an impassioned update on his campaign against the Group A Streptococcus bacterium, to supporters of the Heart Foundation on the Gold Coast.

Whilst to most of us, Scarlet Fever may sound like a disease out of the middle ages, it is still an infectious disease of contemporary concern caused by a Group A Strep infection.

It most commonly affects school-aged children, and yet there is no vaccine.

If not treated and contained by antibiotics, it can later lead to Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease.

Dr Batzloff’s Gold Coast-based research, aims to deliver a long-term vaccine against Streptococcous Pyogenes infections and has been supported by funding from the Heart Foundation.

Development of a vaccine that can treat the bacteria which cause Scarlet Fever and can lead to rheumatic fever and ultimately rheumatic heart disease, has the potential to save the lives of many Indigenous Australians and other lives worldwide.

“Our research is now at the clinical trial stage and has sparked the interest of international universities,” said Dr Batzloff.

“The world knows that a rheumatic heart vaccine will be groundbreaking in preventing heart disease, and we are at an exciting point in the research,” he said.

The clinical study using the vaccine commenced in February of this year and continues for thirteen months. A small cohort of healthy adults will be vaccinated and they will follow them closely during the observation period to ensure that the vaccine that they have made and tested is in fact safe. It is the first step in getting something from the lab that is a marketable product that we can use as a vaccine.

“This first clinical study, because it is ‘first-in-man’ and is a new vaccine, we have to do a phase one trial, which looks at safety and immunogenicity, said Dr Batzloff.

“It is a very exciting time for any scientist to take something from inception, develop it in the laboratory, to demonstrate that is it working in the lab and then to move it into a clinical setting, where it can be trialed on a human population of volunteers.

“This is the pointy end of the stick, where we take all of that knowledge and data we have built up so far and actually apply it to an outcome.

Bruce MacDonald with Dr Michael Batzloff

Bruce MacDonald, Fundraising Director for Heart Foundation with Dr Michael Batzloff from Institute for Glycomics

Support from the heart…

Heart Foundation Queensland’s Fundraising Director, Bruce Macdonald introduced Dr Batzloff and his research project and said the event was a great way to show supporters what a difference every dollar makes to research projects like this one.

“Heart disease is Australia’s number one killer,” said Mr Macdonald.

“Our purpose in supporting research like this is to prevent or reduce death and suffering from heart, stroke and blood vessel disease.”

The Heart Foundation supporters received a firsthand glimpse into the world of science and research as Dr Batzloff gave them a personalised tour around his laboratory, which is based in the Institute of Glycomics at Griffith University on the Gold Coast.