A University of Central Florida researcher may have found a defense against the Black Plague, a disease that wiped out a third of Europe's population in the Middle Ages and which government agencies perceive as a terrorist threat today.
UCF Professor Henry Daniell and his team have developed a vaccine that early research shows is highly effective against the plague. Findings of his National Institutes of Health and USDA funded research appear in the August edition of Infection and Immunity. The vaccine, which is taken orally or by injection, was given to rats at UCF and the efficacy was evaluated by measuring immunity (antibody) developed in their blood.
All untreated rats died within three days while all orally immunized animals survived this challenge with no traces of the plague in their bodies. The rats were exposed to a heavy dose of Yersinia Pestis bacteria, which causes the plague, at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland. It is one of a few labs in the world authorized to store and work with the highly dangerous agent.
"We are very excited because it appears the oral vaccine is even more effective than traditional injectable vaccine," Daniell said. "This could really make a difference."
In the event of a bioterror attack, the oral form makes the vaccine practical, as the distribution of pills would be much quicker and likely more effective because no special skills or sterile needles are needed to administer them.
"It worked beautifully," Daniell said. "It's expensive to create an injectible vaccine. But with oral vaccines, it is quite cheap. You grow your plants and then you convert them into capsules."
The plague had a deadly impact on early Europe, it continues to make appearances today in places like Africa and Asia. The World Health Organization reports at least 2,000 cases of the plague annually. The most recent outbreak in 2005 killed 56 people
|Contact: Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala|
University of Central Florida