Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lethal Weapon

"Mankind may finally have a weapon to fight two of the world's deadliest diseases." A new vaccine may prove to be a "lethal weapon against malaria" and cholera. Each year approximately a million people die from malaria and cholera sickens hundreds of thousands. Currently, "no FDA approved vaccine to prevent malaria, a mosquito-borne illness" exists. "Only one vaccine to fight cholera, a diarrheal illness that is common in developing countries and can be fatal" is on the market. "The lone vaccine is too expensive to prevent outbreaks in developing countries after floods, and children lose immunity within three years of getting the current vaccine."

Recently, a "University of Central Florida biomedical researcher has developed what promises to be the first low-cost dual vaccine against malaria and cholera."

Led by Henry Daniell, the "team genetically engineered tobacco and lettuce plants to produce the vaccine. Researchers gave mice freeze-dried plant cells (orally or by injection) containing the vaccine. They then challenged the mice with either the cholera toxin or malarial parasite…Untreated rodents contracted diseases quickly, but the mice who received the plant-grown vaccines showed long-lasting immunity for more than 300 days (equivalent to 50 human years)."

In addition to this vaccine, Daniell's lab has "created vaccines against anthrax and black plague that generated a congratulatory call from the top U.S. homeland security official and was featured on the Discovery Channel."

But, why lettuce? "Producing vaccines in plants is less expensive than traditional methods because it requires less labor and technology," Daniell said.

"We're talking about producing mass quantities for pennies on the dollar," he said. "And distribution to mass populations would be easy because it could be made into a simple pill, like a vitamin, which many people routinely take now. There is no need for expensive purification, cold storage, transportation or sterile delivery via injections."

"For Daniell, his research is more than his day job. His passion to find vaccines for the world's top 10 diseases as defined by the World Health Organization comes from growing up in India. He watched many of his childhood friends contract malaria, cholera and other diseases."

"I'm not done yet," he claims. "I still have more diseases to attack."

University of Central Florida (2010, January 27). New vaccine could be lethal weapon against malaria, cholera. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 3, 2010, from¬ /releases/2010/01/100126101421.htm

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