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From a Bad Bug Comes Good Medicine

Bacterium behind food poisoning helps scientists improve anti-viral vaccines

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 28, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- The bacterium that causes food poisoning could actually prove a useful ally in the development of better vaccines to ward off a variety of viral diseases such as HIV, smallpox and influenza, claims a University of Michigan study in the January issue of Molecular Pharmaceutics.

The researchers developed a new vaccine formulation that uses an unusual protein derived from the Listeria bacterium.

Live or weakened viruses are typically used in conventional vaccines to boost the body's immune response. This new Listeria vaccine formulation uses viral protein components along with the bacterial protein, reducing the chance of accidental viral infection.

In preliminary animal studies, the scientists found the Listeria vaccine formulation seemed to boost immune response better than a conventional vaccine.

"Today's vaccines are lifesavers, but there's still much room for improvement," study leader Kyung-Dall Lee, an associate professor in the department of pharmaceutical sciences, says in a prepared statement.

"We've shown that vaccines produced using the listeriolyson O protein can dramatically boost the immune response (in mice). We're very excited about this promising vaccine delivery system, which could pave the way for the next generation of safe, more effective vaccines," Lee says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about vaccines.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, January 2004
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