Goodbye Needle, Hello Smoothie!
New generation oral vaccine uses dairy probiotics to protect against disease
The dendritic cell (green) engulfs the lactobacilli (small blue dots), which release the vaccine. The dendritic cells will induce the proliferation and the activation of T and B cells, which will eliminate the infected cells.
Instead of a dreaded injection with a needle, someday getting vaccinated against disease may be as pleasant as drinking a yogurt smoothie.
A researcher from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has developed a new oral vaccine using probiotics, the healthy bacteria that are found in dairy products like yogurt and cheese. He has successfully used the approach in a preclinical study to create immunity to anthrax exposure. He also is using the method to develop a breast cancer vaccine and vaccines for various infectious diseases.
This new generation vaccine has big benefits beyond eliminating the “Ouch!” factor. Delivering the vaccine to the gut—rather than injecting it into a muscle—harnesses the full power of the body’s primary immune force, which is located in the small intestine.
“This is potentially a great advance in the way we give vaccines to people,” said Mansour Mohamadzadeh, PhD, the lead author and an associate professor of medicine in gastroenterology at the Feinberg School and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“You swallow the vaccine, and the bacteria colonize your intestine and start to produce the vaccine in your gut,” Dr. Mohamadzadeh said. “Then it’s quickly dispatched throughout your body. If you can activate the immune system in your gut, you get a much more powerful immune response than by injecting it. The pathogenic bacteria will be eliminated faster.”
Most vaccines consist of protein and won’t maintain their effectiveness after being digested by the stomach. However, the lactobacillus protects the vaccine until it is in the small intestine.
The Northwestern study was reported in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.