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Current Affairs

Indian scientists develop more potent Anthrax vaccine

Date: 18 June 2019 Tags: Biotechnology

Group of Indian scientists have developed new vaccine against anthrax. It is claimed to be superior over existing anti-anthrax vaccines as it can generate immune response to anthrax toxin as well as its spores rather than the toxin alone.

Anthrax

  • It is a deadly human disease caused by bacterium Bacillus anthracis. This bacterium is found naturally in soil and commonly affects domestic and wild animals around the world.
  • Spores of this bacterium are present in soil and can stay in latent form for years. However, under favourable environmental conditions, these spores become active and start to infect.
  • Often, animals pick up spores while grazing, following which spores germinate in their body and produce toxins.
  • It mainly infects animals like horses, sheep, cattle and goats. Humans, pigs and dogs are comparatively less susceptible and only get infected if exposed to copious amount of spores. It should be noted that Anthrax is not a contagious disease.
  • Note: In 2001, these spores were used as agents of bio-terrorism when letters containing anthrax spores were sent to some people in US, leading to widespread panic.

Anti-anthrax vaccine

Anti-anthrax vaccines for are necessary as the infection can cause death within 2-3 days leaving no scope for diagnosis and treatment.

The currently available anti-anthrax vaccines in market generate immune response against Bacillus protein-protective antigen (a protein that helps in transport of bacillus toxins inside the cells).

In this case, immune response is triggered only when spores germinate in body and start producing bacterial proteins. Anyone vaccinated with such vaccine does not show immune response to bacillus spores and only perform once spores germinate and release toxins.

New Vaccine

The new single vaccine is effective against both the toxin and its spores so as to provide complete protection. It is made of two genes: protective antigen protein and protein present in outer layer of spore.