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Making a safer anthrax vaccine using spinach

BALTIMORE March 10, 2003 Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University have developed a strategy for making a safer anthrax vaccine; enlisting the help of spinach plants to manufacture a key component. They report their findings today at the American Society for Microbiology's Biodefense Research Meeting.

"Protective antigen (PA) of Bacillus anthracis is one of the three components of the anthrax toxin," says Alexander Karasev, a lead researcher on the study. "Purified PA is currently used as a vaccine against anthrax. However, the licensed vaccine derived from apathogenic B. anthracis has side effects and a more efficacious and safer vaccine is needed."

Karasev and his colleagues have genetically engineered a tobacco mosaic virus that, when inserted into spinach plants, instructs the plants to manufacture fragments of PA. The fragments can then easily be purified and used in a vaccine. They are already being used in the production of PA specific antibodies in laboratory animals.

"Plants can be an excellent vehicle for production of a subunit vaccine against anthrax based on protective antigen," says Karasev.


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Contact: Jim Sliwa
jsliwa@asmusa.org
202-942-9297
American Society for Microbiology
10-Mar-2003


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