Melioidosis is caused by the soil-dwelling bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. The clinical manifestations of melioidosis include mild infection of the skin, disseminated disease with organ abscesses and severe sepsis. The highest numbers of cases occur in endemic regions of Thailand and Australia. Rising incidence rates have been recorded in Thailand between 1997-2006 during which the average mortality rate was 42.6%. In 2006, melioidosis and tuberculosis mortality rates in northeast Thailand were equivalent and second only to HIV/AIDS for infectious disease deaths. In regions of northern Australia, where intensive care treatment is more readily available, the mortality rate is still alarmingly high at 20%.
DxDiscovery is exploring the use of B. pseudomallei polysaccharide specific mAbs as a therapeutic to prevent severe melioidosis. Research originating from the AuCoin laboratory at the University of Nevada School of Medicine established that mAbs targeting the B. pseudomallei capsular polysaccharide (CPS) and O-polysaccharide (OPS) provide significant protection in a murine model of pulmonary melioidosis. Therefore, B. pseudomallei specific polysaccharide mAbs may have potential as an adjunct therapy to antibiotics.
Melioidosis is highly endemic to northeast Thailand and northern Australia, but more recent evidence indicates a much wider distribution that includes the India, southern China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. There are also an increasing number of reports of possible endemic disease in the Caribbean, Central and South America and East and West Africa. The predicted global distribution of melioidosis is 430,000 cases/year resulting in nearly 250,000 deaths.
DxDiscovery has been awarded an SBIR Phase I from the Department of Defense – Chemical and Biological Defense Program to develop high affinity therapeutic antibodies for treatment of melioidosis. This award provides an R&D budget of $200,000 over a 9 month Phase I period.