Vax for cocaine addiction could be on horizon

There may soon be hope for cocaine addicts. A team of researchers has produced a lasting cocaine immunity in mice by giving them a vaccine that combines bits of the common cold virus with a particle that mimics the drug. Their research was published Jan. 4 in the online edition of Molecular Therapy.

"Our very dramatic data shows that we can protect mice against the effects of cocaine, and we think this approach could be very promising in fighting addiction in humans," says the study's lead investigator, Ronald Crystal, chairman and professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

He says the antibody immune response produced in lab mice by the vaccine binds to, and sequesters, cocaine molecules before the drug reached the brains of the animals. The vaccine effect lasted for at least 13 weeks, the longest time point evaluated.

"While other attempts at producing immunity against cocaine have been tried, this is the first that will likely not require multiple, expensive infusions, and that can move quickly into human trials," Crystal explains in a statement. "There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for any drug addiction."

However, as Time Healthland notes, there are some concerns. Even if the vaccine proves effective in human trials, experts caution it's not a panacea. Addicts could try to overcome the immunological blockade by increasing their drug intake, leading to dangerous overdoses. Furthermore, not every immune system reacts to every vaccine in the same way--especially particularly those who are immune-compromised.

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