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Small molecule with high impact
Date:3/2/2010

The adjuvants present in vaccines have a bad reputation. For most people, they are only unnecessary compounds within a medicinal product. This is a misunderstanding since adjuvants have a critical impact on the success of a vaccination. In the best case scenario, one single vaccination shot would be now sufficient for conferring life-long protection.

Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools against infectious diseases. They protect against an infection by preventing the infection to arise. In a typical vaccine, attenuated or killed pathogens or just some of their sub-cellular components are injected into the body. The immune system responds to those foreign components, producing antibodies and/or killer cells, which are able to fight the pathogen, as well as memory cells. The latter recognize the true pathogen after host infection, thereby promoting a specific and rapid response able to prevent the establishment of a disease.

However, the immune system often reacts only weakly to the attenuated pathogens or their fragments present in a vaccine. Thus, partial or short-life protection is usually stimulated. The adjuvants by themselves do not trigger an immune reaction, but given as components of a vaccine, they modulate and enhance the immune responses elicited, thereby providing a stronger, early and long-lasting protection. While searching for new adjuvants, the vaccine researchers at the HZI have now found the molecule "c-di-IMP".

"This molecule leads to a strong immune response and it is significantly more effective than known adjuvants," says Rimma Libanova, who is examining the molecule in her PhD thesis. To investigate how it works, she vaccinated mice with a harmless protein, which acts as a foreign structure for the immune system of a mouse. Like during a vaccination against a virus or bacterium, an immune response starts against the protein without the danger of a real infection. One group of mice received the vaccine wit
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Contact: Dr. Bastian Dornbach
bastian.dornbach@helmholtz-hzi.de
49-053-161-811-407
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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