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Autoimmune Disease Vaccine to Be Tested

September 8, 2003
Manchecter, England

British scientists are developing vaccines against autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, which affect about 5% of the British population.

Dr. Neil Williams, of the University of Bristol in southwestern England, told a science conference on Monday that he and his colleagues hope to begin human safety trials of the vaccine early next year.

"The vaccines we are working on are able to re-educate the immune system to reset the balances and put the controls back in place to stop these diseases from continuing to progress," Dr. Williams said.

The vaccines are based on a protein derived from a bacterium. Dr. Williams found that when it is introduced into the body it turns on the immune system controls and stops inflammatory diseases like arthritis and diabetes.

"So far, we know that this works very well in models of these diseases and we will be moving into our first trials in humans in the next 6 months," he added at the week-long meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Using a vaccine against autoimmune diseases is not a new concept but until now it has not been very successful.

In a study of mice prone to diabetes, a vaccine, being developed with the backing of British biotech company Hunter-Fleming Ltd, reduced the occurrence of the disease from 80% to 15%.

If human vaccine trials are successful, this would be an entirely new approach to treating inflammatory diseases. Dr. Williams anticipates the vaccine will have to be given over a short course of time and may have to be repeated periodically.

Copyright © 2003, Reuters Ltd.