Researchers at North Carolina State University have found a surprising potential weapon against the conjectural “biological terrorism” of the imminent future. Sorry, what’s that? We have self-inflicted domestic dangers on our hands that are more real and pressing than… terrorism? How things change. In any case, if suspicious white powders do happen to show up in your mailbox, you’ll be prepared to defend yourself against them. It’ll be as simple as crushing a pill and stirring it up in yogurt. Just like Mom used to make. Or something like that.
Yogurt’s “good” lactic acid bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus, popularly known for their digestive and immune-boosting credentials, are also a highly effective conduit for delivering vaccines directly into the small intestine. Most vaccines are proteins, and, when delivered orally, are broken down by the stomach before they can reach that crucial destination. The NCSU study, which focused on an anthrax vaccine, showed that when the vaccine was able to reach the small intestine intact, it immediately targeted the cells that jump-start the appropriate immune response to protect against anthrax’s adverse affects. Yogurt’s bacteria, also referred to as “probiotics,” can get the vaccine to the small intestine, bypassing the stomach’s digestive impact. This vaccine-delivery method will likely work for other vaccines to protect against a variety of viruses and pathogens, and the study’s authors are now exploring this.
It is this implication that makes the results of this study as relevant and revolutionary now as they would have been even had we not (thankfully, finally, hopefully) moved past the post-9/11 frenzy and fear of anthrax attacks (among other things). The broad scope of the potential uses for oral administration of vaccines that were previously only administrable by injection could be of benefit both within and without our national borders; if this method for oral drug-delivery is consistently effective, distribution could likely be expanded, and accessibility streamlined, for any number of vaccines against the widespread viruses and pathogens that threaten the health and well-being of nations around the world today.