Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Anthrax Vaccine in Tobacco Plants

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Anthrax Vaccine in Tobacco Plants

Article excerpt

Enough anthrax vaccine to inoculate everyone in the United States could be grown inexpensively and safely with only one acre of tobacco plants, a University of Central Florida (UCF) molecular biologist has found. The results of the study are published in the Infection & Immunity journal.

Daniell's research is a breakthrough in efforts to find a safe and effective method of producing large quantities of vaccine for anthrax, one of the top bioterrorism threats facing the United States. The new production method also could help the government and health care providers avoid supply shortages, as one acre of plants can produce 360 million doses in a year. Current production of the vaccine involves an expensive fermentation process that can cause harmful side effects such as inflammation, flulike symptoms, and rashes. This has prompted some people to refuse to be vaccinated.

Seeking a safer and more effective alternative, Daniell and his colleagues injected the vaccine gene into the chloroplast genome of tobacco cells--partly because those plants grow much faster than carrots, tomatoes, and coffee--and grew the cells for several weeks. Tests showed the vaccine taken from the plants was just as potent as the one produced through fermentation but lacked the bacterial toxin that can cause harmful side effects. …

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