Vaccine against Anthrax

New DNA-based vaccine protects mice against anthrax

Published: Thursday 15 November 2001

while the anthrax scare blows out of proportions in the us , researchers at Ohio State University, usa, have found a way to fight the menace at their own level. They have shown that mice injected with fragments of dna from anthrax bacteria can be immunized against the disease. This new approach represents a new -- and perhaps, safer -- way to produce vaccines against highly contagious diseases.

In traditional vaccine approaches, researchers have used live, weakened or dead pathogens -- or proteins produced by the organisms -- to produce an immune response.

This latest study, published in a recent issue of the journal Infection and Immunity , improves on earlier work that suggested that dna-based vaccines might be effective. By using combinations of two gene products produced by the bacteria responsible for causing anthrax -- Bacillus anthracis -- the researchers were able to successfully immunise mice against the disease.

The work was headed by Darrell Galloway, associate professor of microbiology at Ohio State University and colleagues at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and the Biological Defense Research Directorate program at the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring.

Anthrax is a lethal disease if not detected shortly after exposure to bacterial spores. Antibiotics are effective in halting it if given soon after exposure before any symptoms develop. It is one of the leading potential agents discussed for use in biological terrorist attacks, much in the news these days.

Once anthrax spores are inhaled, they are pulled deep into the lungs where they usually are consumed by macrophages -- white cells that scavenge the body for pathogens and other components that may lead to disease.

Once inside the macrophages, the spores germinate producing bacterial cells that multiply, burst the cells, spreading infection and releasing deadly toxin.

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