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Antibody Revolution Targets STDs, Stomach Viruses, Common Cold

Just as the cold season descends, scientists at The Johns Hopkins University are predicting a new wave of cheap, widely available medicines to stop sexually transmitted diseases, protect stomachs from gastrointestinal viruses and defend against the common cold.

Too good to be true? Not according to Hopkins scientists who have declared a revolution against a scourge of emerging infectious diseases. The arsenal, developed with new antibodies created in the lab, can be produced in common field crops, such as corn and soy, and provide protection against diarrheal diseases, respiratory ailments, and STDs.

The developments have enormous implications in the public health arena, the scientists say, because of the relatively recent identification of new battlefields for the fight -- mucosal surfaces, places such as the mouth, the vagina, and the nose, which are evolved by the body to interact safely with the external environment. Specifically, scientists are targeting the respiratory, gastrointestinal and genital/urinary tracts, where most pathogens are initially transmitted.

The scientists herald these new advances in biotechnology and provide an overview of burgeoning research with monoclonal antibodies (MABs) in the January-March issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control.

"There's finally an understanding of how important mucosal surfaces are," said Kevin Whaley, a research scientist in biophysics and one of the authors of the report. "Immunology, of course, has been around forever and ever, but mucosal immunology is relatively new.

"Soon, we believe, with the use of monoclonal antibodies, a person could take a small tablet for traveler's diseases in the stomach, a squirt from an inhaler for respiratory protection, and, for general urinary tract infection, put a gel or controlled-release device in the vagina. New sexual lubricants
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Contact: Gary Dorsey
gdd@jhu.edu
410-516-7906
Johns Hopkins University
29-Dec-1998


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