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U. Iowa finding speeds up immunization booster schedule

Parents often wonder why it takes a year or more and multiple shots to fully immunize their children against diseases like diphtheria and pertussis. The reason is twofold. First, a single vaccination generates only a small amount of immunity and booster shots are needed to build up immunity to protective levels. The second reason is due to the fact that a substantial "lag time" is required by the immune system between initial immunization and subsequent booster shots to maximize the size of each boost.

Researchers at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A Carver College of Medicine have discovered that a different vaccination strategy, called dendritic cell vaccination, can dramatically speed up the immunization process by greatly reducing the required "lag time" between the initial vaccination and the booster shots. The finding has important implications for immunotherapy -- using vaccines to treat cancer -- where developing immunity fast is critical.

In the UI study, mice treated with a dendritic cell vaccine and a booster shot were protected against a bacterial infection in a matter of days compared to the several weeks required by normal vaccination to generate immunity. The study results appeared in Nature Medicine advance online publication (AOP) at the journal's Web site (http://www.nature.com/nm/index.html) on June 12.

"People should not be concerned that vaccines don't work -- if you have plenty of time, current vaccine and booster regimens work very well," said John Harty, Ph.D., UI professor of microbiology in the Carver College of Medicine, and senior author of the study. "But there are circumstances, such as using a vaccine to treat a fast-growing cancer, where the immune response might be needed much more rapidly. With the dendritic cell vaccinations, we really speed up the booster schedule and also speed up the time it takes to achieve protective immunity."

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Contact: Jennifer Brown
jennifer-l-brown@uiowa.edu
319-335-9917
University of Iowa
12-Jun-2005


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