Research continues for plague vaccine

Research is continuing on the development of a vaccine that will protect the public against weaponized forms of the plague.

One researcher on such a vaccine, Dr. Steve Smiley, is currently overseeing a study at the Trudeau Institute, reports. Dr. Smiley’s research group published data on its recent research in the current issue of the journal Vaccine.

Working in collaboration with the U.S. and U.K. militaries and the Northeast Biodefense Center, Smiley’s research has shown that antibodies receive help from another part of the immune system when they protect against plague.

Dr. Smiley told that his laboratory focused its efforts on pneumonic plague, the form of the disease that attacks the lungs. Bubonic plague infects the lymph nodes while Septicemic plague infects the blood.

Using a mouse model of pneumonic plague, the researchers showed that antibodies work together with cytokines to control plague, according to

Cytokines are the proteins that cells use to communicate with each other. Smiley said that there are many types of cytokines and that each convey distinct messages to cells that bear cytokine receptors on their surfaces.

Smiley said the two types of primates used in the plague vaccine studies almost certainly produced different amounts of cytokines.

“This paper should encourage researchers to determine whether differences in cytokine production may explain why one was better protected than the other,” Smiley told

Smiley said that his lab is now working to produce an improved plague vaccine. The improved vaccine is designed to leave the immune system with a memory that instructs it to produce both antibodies and the right mix of cytokines if it encounters the plague.