New Hope For Meth Vaccine

New Hope For Meth Vaccine

What once seemed impossible to combat a deadly addiction to methamphetamine may one day be a reality: a vaccine for meth addiction.

That’s what scientists at The Scripps Research Institute are saying following their successful test on an experimental methamphetamine vaccine in rats. The good news is that rats that received the vaccination were largely protected from developing methamphetamine addiction.

Of course, much more testing needs to be done, but if the vaccine proves to be effective in humans, it would be the first such vaccine against methamphetamine addiction. This is a serious and deadly disease that affects an estimated 25 million people across the globe.

Facts About Meth Abuse and Addiction

In the United States alone, there is an estimated population of 400,000 current meth users. The state of California is said to have more primary drug use admissions for meth than any other drug.

Meth has characteristics that make it more addictive than other common types of drugs of abuse and there is currently no approved treatment for meth abuse and addiction.

Development of Vaccines for Addictive Drugs

It isn’t just The Scripps Research Institute that’s been heavily involved in developing vaccines for addictive drugs. Various other institutions have invested time, effort and money in the pursuit of vaccines that can prevent addiction to various drugs of abuse.

Two cases in point are vaccines for nicotine and codeine, both of which are already in various phases of clinical trials. Meth vaccines, on the other hand, have been tested in various animals, but with a surprising lack of success to-date. That is why the news from The Scripps Research Institute is so promising on this front.

According to a press release announcing the results of the testing, the methamphetamine molecule is structurally simple, making it relatively unnoticeable to the immune system. Meth and its main metabolite, ordinary amphetamine, tend to remain once they get into the nervous system. Even a small amount of meth goes a long way.

Kim Janda, the Ely Callaway Jr., Professor of Chemistry and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute, said that “the simple structure and long half-life of this drug make it a particularly difficult vaccine target.”

Janda and his laboratory have developed six candidate meth vaccines two years ago. As for the latest testing, Janda is confident that “this vaccine has all the right features to allow it to move forward in development.” Janda added that “it certainly works better than the other active vaccines for meth that have been reported so far.”

Separate research for an antibody-based treatment is also showing promising results. Antibody-based therapies are commonly used to treat cancer and chronic immunological conditions. But they are expensive and the dose typically lasts for weeks, at most.

An active meth vaccine would need to be cheap to make and administer and would have to provide protection for months, rather than weeks. Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute say that extending the protection duration is the “next big scientific challenge in this field.”

This study was funded in part by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

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