TUESDAY, May 11, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Scientists in 12 American cities are beginning tests of an experimental vaccine that could protect people against anthrax, a rare disease that has become a potential bioterrorism agent.
A vaccine for anthrax already is in use, mainly to protect military personnel, but it requires six shots over 18 months and an annual booster shot. The vaccine also causes a number of side effects.
Scientists are trying to develop a new vaccine that works faster with fewer side effects. The vaccine now being studied requires two shots four weeks apart. It is produced by California-based VaxGen Inc., based on data from U.S. Army researchers.
"If you're trying to immunize in the face of a threat, particularly if the infectious agent has already been released, a delay of 18 months until the vaccine is effective is a big problem," Dr. John Treanor, director of the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit at the University of Rochester, said in a prepared statement. "That's just too long to wait."
Doctors hope to enroll 480 people -- 40 in each city -- in the study by the end of May. The study is being funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Here's where you can learn more about anthrax.