A study in the US has found the effectiveness of future vaccines for bacterial and viral diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV/Aids can be boosted by using a prescription drug that is already used to treat genital warts and skin cancer.
A team of scientists at the Naval Medical Research Center and UC-Berkeley found diseases such as polio and influenza can be prevented by using vaccines prepared from weakened or inactivated viruses or bacteria.
But devastating diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C cannot be treated with vaccines prepared from weakened viruses due to a number of safety concerns.
Instead, scientists are trying to develop a new generation of vaccines, made with DNA or proteins from infectious agents that can prevent illness without carrying a risk of causing the diseases.
These vaccines will be weaker than conventional vaccines and require a new generation of “adjuvants,” ingredients that boost a vaccine’s immunogenicity.
The report identifies a promising candidate in the form of imiquimod, an immune-boosting drug already in general use.
The scientists coated imiquimod with dextran-based microparticles in hopes of increasing the efficiency of cellular uptake by cells associated with immune response initiation.
Sure enough, the coated drug significantly boosted levels of inflammatory cytokines in laboratory cultures of immune cells from mice.
The findings, which are published in bi-monthly journal, Molecular Pharmaceutics, have “broad significance” and open the door to more extensive testing of the approach, according to John Pesce, who led the team of researchers.
Copyright Press Association 2010