Credit: Health-res

According to a new research, an experimental vaccine for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is a progressive respiratory disease that affects millions of people, may reduce flare-ups in those with severe forms of the illness.

The oral vaccine is unlike regular childhood vaccination as it is made from bacteria that cause meningitis in children. It does not prevent COPD but rather reduces the severity, duration and frequency of flare ups.

Dr Norman H. Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association said, It's not an ideal study but it is suggestive that using this novel oral vaccine can reduce the number or serious COPD exacerbations.

That's a very significant finding and could be very, very useful tool in the management of severe COPD.

They're modest results but certainly favorable and it would seem to be non-toxic, said Dr Len Horovits, a pulmonary specialist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Usually caused by smoking, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and is a major, major problem said Edelman.

Presently, available treatments include flu and pneumonia shots to prevent infection and oxygen and medications to improve quality of life.

However, it's unclear if any of these interventions actually prolong life, Edelman said.

There's not a lot new under the sun, Horovits said. COPD flare-ups seem to be caused by the wrong bacteria or the wrong proportion of bacteria in the airways, which triggers inflammation.

This (new study) is capitalizing on the theory that the inflammation response due to colonization of bacteria is different in COPD, explained Horovits.

The vaccine used in the new trial, HI-164OV is made of inactivated Haemophilus influenzae, the bacteria that cause meningitis in children.

The study authors, from Australia were hoping that the inactivated bacteria would trigger a beneficial change in bacteria colonization.

The trial involved 38 people with severe COPD. Patients were randomly selected to receive either the new HI-164OV oral vaccine or a placebo along with the best available treatment.

Overall COPD exacerbations went down only by 16 per cent but moderate-to-severe exacerbations (that required corticosteroids) were reduced by 63 per cent.

The average length of exacerbation reduced by 37 per cent while antibiotics prescriptions reduced by 56 per cent. Hospitalizations were cut down by 90 per cent.

The encouraging results of the study were published in the journal Chest. Many of the study authors reported ties with Hunter Immunology Ltd., an Australian biopharmaceutical company that makes HI-164OV.