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'Dairy pill' may end fear of the needle

AN oral vaccine packed into bacteria found in dairy products such as milk and cheese protected mice from the anthrax bacteria, suggesting a pill could replace injections for humans, according to researchers.

"Normally, you can't eat vaccines because the digestive process in the stomach destroys them, so vaccines are administered by needle," Todd Klaenhammer, a researcher at North Carolina State University in the United States, said. "Using 'food grade' lactic acid bacteria as a vehicle provides a safe way of getting the vaccine into the small intestine without losing any of the drug's efficacy," he said.

The study also included scientists from the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Anthrax is a common bacteria whose spores can be used as a biological weapon. Usually it causes an easily treated skin lesion. But if inhaled, it can take hold quickly and by the time a person starts showing symptoms, it is usually too late for successful treatment with antibiotics.

Earlier this month, Human Genome Sciences Inc said it would provide an initial 20,000 doses of ABthrax, which fights anthrax infection, to the US government. US based Emergent BioSolutions also produces a vaccine.

Because most vaccines are proteins, they lose effect when passing through the stomach. This means they require, sometimes numerous, injections to work, researchers said.


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