Scientists create dual smallpox-anthrax vaccine

Scientists have managed to combine vaccines for smallpox and anthrax into one that could protect against both in the event of a biological terrorist attack.

On October 4, a team from the U.S. government said that the improved vaccine would be safer, faster-acting and more effective. The dual vaccine can be freeze-dried and stockpiled for rapid delivery, according to Reuters.

"Although licensed vaccines are available for both smallpox and anthrax, because of inadequacies associated with each of these vaccines, serious concerns remain as to the deployability of these vaccines, especially in the aftermath of a bioterror attack involving these pathogens," Liyanage Perera of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and his colleagues wrote, according to Reuters.

Perera and his colleagues at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with a small biotech firm called JDM Technologies, had previously reported improvements they had made to a smallpox vaccine called Wyeth’s Dryvox. Wyeth is now a subsidiary of Pfizer.

Perera’s team added an immune system compound called interleukin-15 to the vaccine and genetically altered the virus used to make it. They added a single protein from anthrax bacteria to make it a dual vaccine.

The dual vaccine can be freeze-dried, stockpiled and rapidly delivered, Perera wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Reuters reports.