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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 13:05 GMT
New anthrax vaccine created
The current vaccine has many side effects
Scientists in India have created a new vaccine for anthrax which they say could be less toxic and longer-lasting than the one that is currently available.

The alternative, which is now ready for clinical trials, has been developed by a team from the Centre for Biotechnology at Jawaharlal Nehru University led by Dr Rakesh Bhatnagar.

It is made up of harmless mutant forms of three key proteins that together make the toxin which does the damage to humans infected with anthrax..

The team's findings were due to were due to be made public at an international conference of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) in December.

However, they have been released early as scientists race to find more effective ways to tackle the bio terrorist threat posed by anthrax.

Human trials

Speaking to the BBC's Hindi service, Dr Bhatnagar said the laboratory testing of the new vaccine had been completed, and it would now be subjected to animal and human trials.

He said the laboratory trials had shown a very high success rate.

Dr Bhatnagar said that if further tests proved successful, the new vaccine could replace the form currently in use, which although effective has many side effects.

These include: muscle and joint pains, headaches, fatigue, chills, fever and nausea.

There is also a small risk of a severe adverse reaction.

Regular booster doses are also needed to maintain protection.

Dr Bhatnagar was motivated to find a vaccine for anthrax following a major epidemic among animals in West Bengal seven years ago.

ASCB president Elain Fuchs said there was an urgent need for new and improved methods of treating and preventing anthrax infections.

Three proteins

She said: "Dr Bhatnagar's research has the potential for contributing to these efforts."

The anthrax toxin, which is responsible for the most dangerous effects of the disease, consists of three proteins: protective antigen, lethal factor and edema factor.

Individually, the proteins are non-toxic, but in combination they can be deadly.

The vital protein is protective antigen which binds to host cells and enables the other two proteins to enter.

A harmless form of protective antigen is the main ingredient of the new vaccine.

However, it also includes trace amounts of the harmless forms of lethal factor and edema factor which boost its effectiveness.

See also:

10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: How do you stop it?
02 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax antidote hope
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