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La Jolla Scientists Work On Cocaine Vaccine

The common cold virus might be good for something, after all, with scientists at the La Jolla-based The Scripps Research Institute using part of it to develop a vaccine against cocaine addiction.

TSRI Professor Kim Janda combined a chemically modified cocaine antigen -- a substance that stimulates the production of antibodies -- with adenovirus, which causes the common cold, to create an immune response against the illegal drug, according to the institute.

Working in conjunction with Cornell University and Weill Cornell Medical College, Janda found the new treatment to be successful in experiments in test tubes and laboratory mice for three months.


"The vaccine suppresses the stimulant effects of the drug," according to Janda, co-author of a paper that appears in the Jan. 4 online edition of the journal Medical Therapy. "Unlike other types of treatment, a vaccine such as this one does not interfere with the neurological targets of the drug, but instead blocks cocaine from ever reaching the brain in the first place."

The vaccine could be the first to offer cocaine addicts a simple way to break and reverse their habit, according to Janda. The approach could also be useful in treating other addictions, such as to nicotine, heroin and methamphetamine.

Extensive testing in humans is required before the vaccine becomes available commercially.