Jefferson molecular biologists have created an oral vaccine against botulism which they believe can be used as a prototype to develop vaccines for other diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus. Eventually, they say, their discovery may lead to a range of oral vaccines that could be inserted into common foods. The Jefferson scientists reported their research findings in a recent issue of the Journal Infection and Immunity.
The researchers are Lance Simpson, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College, and Director of the Jefferson Clinical Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and his colleagues, Nikita Kiyatkin, PhD, and Andrew Maksymowych, PhD.
Using the sophisticated tools of molecular biology, the Jefferson team created a modified and non-toxic version of botulinum toxin. Nature's deadliest poison, the toxin causes the disease botulism, and is ordinarily seen as a form of food poisoning. In severe cases, the toxin can cause paralysis of the nervous system and death.
The researchers created a novel form of the toxin that can enter the general circulation but not poison nerves, thus acting as an effective oral vaccine against botulism.
Animals such as racehorses and farmyard chickens are susceptible to botulism, making such a vaccine of interest to the pharmaceutical industry, says Dr. Simpson, who sees further applications of the work in both veterinary and human medicine.