New research presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Conference shows that combining traditional vaccines with the immune chemical interleukin-12 (IL-12) can create nasal vaccines that are as effective as shots and better protect the respiratory tract. Science Daily explains that IL-12 is a cytokine which stimulates the immune system by interacting with other immune chemicals and white blood cells. By combining the cytokine with existing vaccines, researchers were able to prevent mice from certain diseases, including influenza, pneumococcal bacteria and Yersinia pestis--better known as plague.
Despite the fact that the respiratory system is a major entry point for viruses and bacteria, few effective nasal vaccines exist. Researchers have had limited success introducing vaccines into the nasal passages and lungs, and shots are only so effective. Professor Dennis Metzger of Albany Medical College explains that dosing patients at the site of disease entry offers several benefits. " ...[I]t is difficult to induce immunity at the site of entry and so standard vaccines are only partially protective," he notes, as quoted by Science Daily. "Intranasal vaccination gets around this problem by inducing immunity in the pulmonary passage. This prevents initial infection as well as systemic complications."
Nasal vaccines have the added benefit of being less invasive than traditional shots. And Metzger adds that this delivery method "protect[s] the pulmonary tract in a therapeutic manner after pathogen exposure," meaning that nasal vaccines could be useful in the event of a pandemic or biologic attack. The research next move will be to conduct human trials of IL-12.
- here's the news from Science Daily