Polymer Joins Fight Against Illnesses

A polymer is helping vaccines against diseases be more effective. In mice, at least.

The scientists from Oxford University, and Swedish and U.S. colleges say that vaccinemice injected with test vaccines designed to fight infectious diseases, such as the flu, HIV, and the herpes virus, were better protected when the polymer polyethyleneimine (PEI) was added to the vaccine, reports TopNews. In this case, PEI is an adjuvant, a drug or agent injected along with a vaccine to enhance an immune system’s response stimulated by the vaccine.

The scientists injected a single lethal dose of flu vaccine laced with PEI into the mice through nasal droplets. Those who had the adjuvant in the vaccine were completely protected against the flu and showed a marked improvement over mice given the vaccine without PEI, reports ZeeNews. The researchers’ work was summarized in a paper published in Nature Biotechnology.

Quentin Sattentau, professor of pathology at the Oxford’s Dunn School of Pathology, who led the work, says:

Gaining complete protection against flu from just one immunization is pretty unheard of, even in a study in mice. This gives us confidence that PEI has the potential to be a potent adjuvant for vaccines against viruses like flu or HIV, though there are many steps ahead if it is ever to be used in humans.

Researchers plan to turn their attention to testing the PEI adjuvant in ferrets, which are a better animal model for studying the flu. It may be a couple of years before the polymer is used in clinical human trials.

These viruses are some of the most difficult infectious agents to develop vaccines against. HIV and flu change and evolve to escape immune responses stimulated by vaccines. Finding more effective adjuvants could help in developing defenses against these agents.

Source: “Polymer Proves to Be Potential Enough to Enhance Vaccines Efficiency,” TopNews, 8/27/12
Source: “New compound boosts efficacy of HIV, flu vaccine,” ZeeNews, 8/27/12
Image by U.S. Navy.

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