An experimental oral vaccine has demonstrated that it may be able to protect people from an anthrax attack. This experimental vaccine is loaded onto bacteria found in dairy products to escape the normal physical traps that typically inactivate oral vaccines. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Normally, you can't eat vaccines because the digestive process in the stomach destroys them, so vaccines are administered by needle," said Todd Klaenhammer, a researcher at North Carolina State University who co-led the study. "Using 'food grade' lactic acid bacteria as a vehicle provides a safe way of getting the vaccine into the small intestine without losing any of the drug's efficacy."
This new approach lands the vaccine in the small intestine. Once there, the vaccine targets the first line of immune cells, dendritic cells, that can trigger the mucosal immune system to respond and elicit protection against anthrax. In the study, the oral vaccine worked about as well as a vaccine delivered by needle, the standard way of inoculating living things from viruses and pathogens. And the new research may have broader implications.
"Can we make these generally recognized as safe lactic acid bacteria into a premier delivery system for vaccines and biotherapeutics? That's the question we're now trying to answer," Klaenhammer says.
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