Potential protection against plague discovered

A research team led by Dr. Stephen Smiley at the Trudeau Institute in New York has discovered a new protective property of an immune system T cell that may protect the human body against plague.

There is currently no licensed plague vaccine in the United States and the team, along with many other teams around the world, is attempting to create a vaccine to protect against the possibility of a terrorist attack using Yersinia pestis, the plague bacteria, RedOrbit.com reports.

Previously, most plague vaccine candidates have attempting to stimulate B cells to produce the antibodies that would fight plague, though animal studies have shown those antibodies have not been effective enough alone. Smiley's laboratory has developed an experimental vaccine that produced T cells that give partial protection against pneumonic plague.

"It is particularly exciting t hat the boost seems to improve protection by increasing a newly described type of T cell, which we call a Th1-17 cell," Dr. Smiley said, according to RedOrbit.com.

The cells act like a combination of Th1 cells, stopping intracellular bacteria and Th17 cells, which kill extra cellular threats. This is helpful for pneumonic plague, which grows on both the inside and outside of the cells of the lung.

While the research is focused on stopping plague as a bioweapon, it may also be able to stop outbreaks of the naturally occurring variety.