Texas A&M researchers nearing completion of human Brucella vaccine

Researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center are coming closer to finishing the first human Brucella vaccine, which could be used by military personnel in crisis situations.

The Brucella bacterium is considered a select agent by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which means it has been weaponized. The vaccine would be used primarily as a biodefense vaccine by the military.

Brucella bacteria cause brucellosis, a chronic disease that causes incapacitation and high fever. When untreated, the disease can result in neurological symptoms when the bacteria cross the blood-brain barrier.

Allison Rice-Ficht, the director for the TAMHSC's Center for Microencapsulation and Drug Delivery, received a $2.6 million grant in 2007 from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command. Since that time, the original grant was renewed twice for an additional $1.6 million of funding.

Ficht's team is working to make the vaccine stable at room temperature so it can be used as a pocket vaccine that military personnel could carry in capsule form.

"We are now addressing packaging issues so that the future 'pocket vaccine' will be able to be distributed at room temperature and without medical personnel," Ficht said.

A patent application is currently pending on the vaccine and animal vaccination studies are concluding. Ficht said she hopes to have the vaccine in human clinical trials in the near future.