U.K. and U.S. anthrax researchers collaborate with Turkish and Georgian colleagues

A team of scientists from the United Kingdom, the United States, Turkey and the Republic of Georgia are collaborating on the development of a new anthrax vaccine.

Professor Les Baillie from Cardiff University's School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is leading the NATO funded project to protect against the deadly bioterrorist agent, according to ScienceDaily.com.

"Currently the majority of the world's population is susceptible to infection with Bacillus anthracis the bacterium which causes anthrax," Baillie said, ScienceDaily.com reports. "The U.S postal attacks in 2001 highlighted the vulnerability of civilian popul.ations and brought home the need to develop effective, rapid, robust medical countermeasures to combat the threat posed by terrorist use of this organism."

The project is receiving funding through NATO's Science for Peace and Security Program, which supports efforts to develop more effective vaccines and medical countermeasures.

Efforts to develop new anthrax vaccines have been hampered by the fact that naturally acquired cases of anthrax infection are exceedingly rare in NATO countries. As a result, researchers must use animal models. Animal immune responses differ greatly from humans, making it nearly impossible to confirm the actual efficacy of any vaccine.

To help circumvent the problem, the U.S. and U.K. researchers have joined with scientists in Turkey and Georgia, where anthrax remains a significant illness for both humans and animals.

"These unique resources, combined with the expertise of NATO researchers offers us an unparalleled opportunity," Baillie said, ScienceDaily.com reports.