Army researchers start ricin vaccine trial

U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) is starting a Phase I trial of a new vaccine to protect against ricin. The trial will examine the safety of the vaccine and its ability to cause an immune response in a small group of subjects. The vaccines, first developed by a USAMRIID team in 2004, uses a fragment of the ricin protein called the A-chain that's been modified be non-toxic and to elicit a protective immune response, according to a USAMRIID release. In animal trials the vaccine protected mice who inhaled a lethal dose of ricin.

Ricin is a toxin found in castor beans that's fatal in small doses, particularly when inhaled or injected, and causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heart beat, low blood pressure and seizures. If inhaled, the toxin causes breathing difficulty and eventual lung collapse. Castor beans are very common, notes Global Security Newswire, causing biodefense experts to fear that ricin could be easily utilized for bioterrorism.

"In the recent past, the DOD acquisition strategy involved USAMRIID's developing medical products to a specified maturity and then handing them off to another," said senior research scientist Dr. Leonard Smith in a statement. "Now, we have been able to do the initial production of the vaccine under clinical Good Manufacturing Practices, as well as the Phase I clinical trials, right here at USAMRIID. This early product evaluation in-house saves both time and money."

- here's the USAMRIID release
- check out the Global Security Newswire report