In a series of experiments with mice, Dr. Dennis Metzger, director of the Center for Immunology and Microbial Disease at Albany Medical College, demonstrated that by combining standard vaccines for respiratory pathogens with the immune chemical interleukin-12 (IL-12) and delivering them intranasally he was able to introduce higher levels of protection. A variety of vaccines against various respiratory pathogens were tested, including influenza virus, pneumococcal bacteria and Yersinia pestis, a bacteria that could be used in biological weapons. All the new vaccines showed enhanced protective characteristics.
IL-12, which interacts with other immune chemicals and the white blood cells that produce them, is a powerful stimulator of the body’s immune system response.
“Infectious agents still account for 25 percent of deaths worldwide and the major killers are acute respiratory infections,” Dr. Metzger pointed out. “Anything that can produce a more potent immune system response while offering added convenience, such as a nasal vaccine, merits further exploration. “
“Standards vaccines are only partially protective since it is difficult to induce immunity at the site of entry,” Dr. Metzger continued. “Intranasal vaccines get around this problem by inducing immunity in the pulmonary passage. This prevents initial infection as well as systemic complications.”
He noted that the antibodies induced by intranasal vaccination are effective not only in preventing infection but can also protect the pulmonary tract after pathogen exposure. “In the case of a bioterrorism threat or influenza pandemic, this would be very significant,” Dr. Metzger explained. Clinical testing is still needed to demonstrate the efficacy of pairing IL-12 with nasal vaccines in humans.
Dr. Metzger’s research was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is the largest private employer in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 651-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals, and which also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with 325 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life. For more information: www.amc.edu or www.facebook.com/albanymedicalcenter
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