Tastes like yogurt? It’s a vaccine

March 18th, 2009 - 5:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 18 (IANS) Instead of dreaded injections, getting vaccinated against disease may become as tasty as drinking a yogurt smoothie.
A researcher from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has developed a new oral vaccine using probiotics, the healthy bacteria found in dairy products like yogurt and cheese.

He has successfully used the approach in a preclinical study to create immunity to anthrax exposure. He also is using the method to develop a breast cancer vaccine and vaccines for various infectious diseases.

This new generation vaccine has big benefits beyond eliminating the pain factor. Delivering the vaccine to the gut - rather than injecting it into a muscle - harnesses the full power of the body’s primary immune force, which is located in the small intestine.

There are other advantages to the new oral vaccine. Probiotics, which are natural immune stimulators, eliminate the need for a chemical in traditional vaccines that inflames the immune system and triggers a local immune response.

The chemical in an injected vaccine may cause side effects such as dizziness, arm swelling and vomiting. Probiotic vaccines also are inexpensive to produce.

“This is potentially a great advance in the way we give vaccines to people,” said Mansour Mohamadzadeh, co-author and associate professor of medicine in gastroenterology at the Feinberg School.

“You swallow the vaccine, and the bacteria colonise your intestine and start to produce the vaccine in your gut,” Mohamadzadeh said. “Then it’s quickly dispatched throughout your body. If you can activate the immune system in your gut, you get a much more powerful immune response than by injecting it. The pathogenic bacteria will be eliminated faster.”

Most vaccines consist of protein and won’t maintain their effectiveness after being digested by the stomach. However, the lactobacillus protects the vaccine until it is in the small intestine, said a Northwestern release.

The study appeared in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

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