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Tobacco May Make Cheap Malaria Vaccine


February 1995

Researchers who produced a malaria vaccine in a tobacco plant say other vaccines may soon be cultivated from tobacco (Jerry E. Bishop, "Tobacco, Used to Make Malaria Vaccine, Might Prove a Source of Cheap Therapies," Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 1995, p. 13).

The research was performed at Biosource Technologies, Inc. in Vacaville, California and the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

The vaccine is created by genetically altering tobacco plants to carry a protein that "looks" like the malaria virus to the human body. The body produces antibodies to the virus, thus building an immunity to later infection. The tobacco virus cannot infect humans with malaria because it is a plant, not an animal virus.

The tobacco malaria vaccine holds great promise for developing countries. Producing the vaccine through tobacco should be much less expensive and much easier than the current method of altering whole viruses.