Will Georgia Score a Fungal Disease Vaccine

Fungal vaccine candidate progresses at University of Georgia
Fungi pathogens
WHO fungal disease priority pathogens list 2023
(Precision Vaccinations)

A recent HBO TV show has created extensive awareness that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved a vaccine after decades of research to protect people from fungal diseases.

While invasive fungal infections cause over 1.5 million fatalities annually worldwide, they do not create 'zombies.'

However, researchers in Georgia are making progress with an experimental vaccine designed to protect against the three most common causes of fungal infections, Aspergillus, Candida, and Pneumocystis.

These fungi are responsible for about 80% of deadly fungal infections in the U.S.

Fungal infections are most commonly seen in people with immune disorders, including those with uncontrolled HIV or impaired immunity.

And a 2018 study showed people with diabetes; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD); or co-infections such as COVID-19, tuberculosis, or flu are likewise at higher risk of developing fungal infections.

Recent clinical research by the University of Georgia (UGA) showed that nonhumans had better chances of survival when given a vaccine candidate.

The new study tested the vaccine's efficacy in four preclinical animal models, including nonhuman primates.

"There's a significant unmet clinical need for this kind of prevention and treatment, particularly among immunocompromised individuals," said Karen Norris, lead investigator on the new study and professor in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, in a press release on January 31, 2023.

"The patient population at risk for invasive fungal infections has increased significantly over the last several years."

The UGA researchers relied on different immunosuppressed models for the study, reflecting drug regimens similar to those of transplant recipients, people with HIV, or cancer patients.

The vaccine candidate was effective in developing protective antibodies in each model.

"Because it targets three different pathogens, the vaccine has the potential to be groundbreaking regarding invasive fungal infections," added Norris.

"Plans are underway to develop the vaccine for a Phase I (human) safety trial."

"...and although there have been considerable efforts to develop vaccines, none are yet approved. So we believe this is a very strong vaccine candidate."

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a report in November 2022, highlighting the first-ever list of 19 fungal "priority pathogens".

The WHO's fungal priority pathogens list aims to focus and drive further research and policy interventions to strengthen the global response to fungal infections and antifungal resistance.

Other fungal disease vaccine development news is posted at PrecisionVaccinations.

Disclosures: Study co-authors did not disclose any industry conflicts of interest. The U.S. NIH, the CDC, the Georgia Research Alliance, and the UGA Research Foundation supported the research.