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Epidemiology Article Summary

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Epidemiology Health Article Summary #2

Scientists at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas recently completed human testing on a ricin vaccine. Ricin is a toxin extracted from castor beans and is deadly when eaten, breathed or injected. Small amounts can cause organ failure and even death. The primary concern regarding ricin is its ease of availability, resulting in its biological agent classification. It could easily be used as a terrorist weapon and has in years past been sent to the White House and U. S. Senate building.

Volunteers were injected with the vaccine and within thirty days had produced antibodies capable of neutralizing the toxin. To test its effectiveness, mice were injected with the vaccine and survived all tests accordingly. The vaccine was also proven to be safe with no major side effects reported. Only sore arms or headaches were documented by immunologists. The new focus of research will be on optimizing the virus and tinkering with vaccine preparation in hopes of lengthening the immunity (currently 127 days). Also, scientists would like to make storage more convenient and transition into something as stable as a powder at room temperature. Currently the vaccine must be kept frozen at extreme temperatures. The only initial drawback to the vaccine is the amount of time before antibodies are produced. Immune responses weren't seen until thirty days after injection. This primarily poses problems on who should receive the vaccine and when.

The study received praise for its efforts from viral immunologists, Dr. Hildegund Ertl "The way they did it was really well-done," said Dr. Etrl and it can only be hoped that further developments will help protect our country from this bioterrorist threat and help pave the way for other future advancements.

Ambrose, Sue. (2006). Scientists produce potential ricin vaccine. Dallas Morning News, Jan. 31. 8B.



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