Vaccine in your beer and cola!

Himalayan News Service

London, April 2:

Imagine vaccinating a child against malaria by giving him a cola to drink! Scientists may soon create vaccines against a host of diseases that could be administered by mixing them with drinks and ordinary food.

Researchers at the Moredun Research Institute near Edinburgh are currently investigating a new method that allows vaccines to be administered orally rather than by injection, reports Scotsman. This raises the pros-pect of immunising the general population with specially modified food, something that could be particularly useful in third world with few health service facilities, said John March, the head scientist of the team.

Currently, putting vaccines in food is not particularly effective because they are often destroyed in the stomach. But March’s method, which uses DNA vaccine in a harmless bacterial virus ‘container’, has been shown to be more effective in early tests.

“Once all the development and testing work has been completed, what we hope to achieve are ‘vaccines in a pill’, capable of cheap, local manufacture, administered without the need of cold chains, needles and dedicated medical staff,” he said, “In effect, they would be stored and bought off the shelf from the sto-re. If they can be added to food and drink we may be able to vaccinate a child agai-nst malaria by giving them a Coca-Cola drink.”

March, who has been in touch with US scientists developing a genetically altered banana containing a vaccine against cervical cancer, said the developing world would benefit particularly because mass immunisation of the population would be far easier and cheaper. “The idea is, when you eat the banana you get vaccinated against it (papilloma virus that causes cancer). But it doesn’t work very well — it gets deactivated when it goes thro-ugh stomach,” he said. Marc-h even suggested a radical move - putting vaccines into cigarettes.

Jack Winkler, director of the independent Food and Health Research organisation here, said, “This is a public health issue. It’s no good fortifying auber-gines because not many people eat them. When you start thinking about functional food, you have to do it with something pe-ople eat. The answer the Japanese came up with was to put the-m in soft drinks and then confectionery. This drives Western nutritionists mad — to them this is dressing up unhealthy food.”