New test method may aid tularemia vaccine research

A recent report by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) said researchers have developed a novel method to study immune responses in mice.

The NIAID said the method will allow scientists to test prospective vaccines for tularemia and potentially for other diseases. At this point, there is no vaccine against this bacterial disease, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said roughly 100 to 200 cases are reported nationwide annually. With a high infection rate and the potentially lethal nature of the disease, it is considered a possible bio-weapon.

Symptoms of tularemia can vary, depending on how it enters the body, through tick or fly bites or through the eyes, skin or mouth/lungs. Common symptoms for all entry points include high fever, blisters and swollen glands. Its pneumonic (lung) form is considered to be severe by the CDC and can cause coughing, difficulty breathing and chest pain.

Currently, there is a vaccine, but it has not been approved for public use, as it can weaken over time. Researchers also have found that the strain can't seem to trigger the immune response necessary to produce immunity. Utilizing data from the new study method, scientists potentially can create a more viable vaccine.

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