Edible Vaccines

1600 Words7 Pages
Today eighty percent of infants are being vaccinated for diphtheria; pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, tetanus and tuberculosis (Landrige 2000). This percentage is up from about five percent in the mid-1970s; however, the death toll from these infections is roughly three million annually. Millions still die from infectious diseases for which immunizations are non-existent, unreliable, or too costly. Vaccines all function with the same idea in mind, priming the immune system to swiftly destroy specific disease-causing agents, or pathogens, before the agents can multiply enough to cause symptoms (Landrige 2000). Classically, this priming has been achieved by presenting the immune system with whole viruses or bacteria that have been killed or made too weak to proliferate much (Landrige 2000). In the early 1990's Charles J. Arntzen of Texas A&M found a way to solve many of the problems that bar vaccines from reaching all too many children in developing nations (Landrige 2000). Then Arntzen heard of a world health organization call for an inexpensive, oral vaccine that needed no refrigeration. He then visited Bangkok, where he saw a mother soothe a crying baby with a banana and he thought that perhaps food could be genetically engineered to produce vaccines in their edible parts, which could then be eaten when inoculations were needed (Landrige 2000). A genetically engineered food that would produce a vaccine is an amazing breakthrough in the world of immunization; vaccinations would become cheaper and more readily available. Long before the causes of disease were known and long before the processes of recovery were understood, and interesting thing was observed: if people recovered from a disease, rather than suc... ... middle of paper ... ...le vaccination is the question of whether or not they can be useful in humans (Landrige 2000). Nevertheless, Arntzen and his collaborators obtained reassuring results in the first published human trial, of a dozen subjects who ate raw potatoes containing E. coli. Arntzen has also seen immune reactivity in nineteen of twenty people who ate a potato vaccine aimed at the Norwalk virus. Also Hilary Koprowski has fed transgeic lettuce carrying a hepatitis B antigen to three volunteers, and two of the subjects displayed a good systemic response (Landrige 2000). If research continues to provide results like the few just mentioned, the edible vaccine would be the next biggest thing since sliced bread to third world countries. Not only would these foods provide vaccination, but the would also provide nourishment, they would be relatively inexpensive, and easy to obtain!
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