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Plant-derived vaccines safeguard against deadly plague

stably produce high levels of proteins, called antigens, which conferred immunity against the plague.

"This current work represents a new direction in our research because we've come to the realization that plants also have the potential for the production of antigens that can be purified and delivered by typical intramuscular or subcutaneous injections -- the way most vaccines are normally given," said Mason, an associate professor in the School of Life Sciences. "This new system produces really high levels of antigens in relatively short periods of time."

The researchers modified tobacco plants to make high levels of the plague antigens F1, V and a combination of the two, a so-called F1-V fusion antigen. All are known to be important for the plague bacteria to produce its toxic effects.

The antigens were purified from the plants and injected into guinea pigs. Testing using an aerosolized form of plague was performed by Chad Roy and Robert Webb at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, Maryland. This project was also the first comparison study designed to test more than one kind of antigen during the same challenge.

"The idea with any recombinant subunit vaccine is that you can pick and choose selective antigens that can confer protection and limit the potential for adverse reaction," said Mason.

More than half the vaccinated animals survived the challenge with all forms of the antigen, and guinea pigs vaccinated with V antigen alone had the highest survival rates.

"This study provided validation of our plant expression system, that it can produce the bacterial antigens in a native form that will allow for an appropriate immune response against a bacterial pathogen." Mason.

Critical to the success of the study was a collaboration set up with Anatoli Giritch, Victor Klimyuk and Yuri Gleba, who originally developed the plant expression system at Icon Genetics, lo
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Source:Arizona State University


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