Australian researchers are hopeful they have found a long-awaited vaccine to finally beat streptococcal A infections.
Human trials are set to start early next year using a groundbreaking combination vaccine that could prevent illnesses ranging from simple sore throats and school sores through to life-threatening heart disease.
The infection is caused by bacteria from group A streptococcus, which in rare cases can cause a toxic shock syndrome similar to that from staphylococcus aureus, or golden staph.
It can also cause other serious complications such as rheumatic fever, which can affect the heart, and kidney disease.
The disease is responsible for almost 500,000 deaths a year worldwide and is more common in Australia's remote Aboriginal communities and developing countries.
The vaccine being tested by Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics combines the protein SpyCEP and a previously developed vaccine known as J8-DT.
Principal research leader Michael Good said the team's latest research, published in the Journal of Immunology, showed they were getting closer to finally beating strep A infections.
He said they had successfully vaccinated mice with a treatment they believed would be suitable for humans and planned to spend the next six months developing a vaccine with a higher level of purity.
"While strep A can cause tonsillitis or school sores, it can sometimes develop a mutation in its DNA which causes the organism to spread to other tissues in your body," Professor Good said.
"This is when it becomes dangerous and 10-15 per cent of infected people will die when that happens.
"But we have worked out how to combat that virulence and we have vaccinated the mice with the protein which induces antibodies that protect the white cells needed to battle the infection when a mutation occurs."
Professor Good said he believed the key to finding an effective preventive treatment was combining the two vaccines.
"When the white cells can work, they can attack the organism as long as there are other antibodies there and this is when the J8-DT vaccine comes in," he said.