Researchers from the Smiley lab at the Trudeau Institute have now identified a single component of the plague causing bacterium that can be used as a vaccine. This single "subunit" could potentially be used to create a safer form of a T cell-stimulating plague vaccine. The new data is featured in the July issue of The Journal of Immunology.
"To date, there has been little progress in the development of safe and effective vaccines for plague or similar bioweapons," said Dr. Stephen Smiley, a leading plague researcher and Trudeau Institute faculty member. "Our data identifies a single component of the plague causing bacterium seen by T cells. This could be a key discovery as we seek to develop a plague vaccine."
The lab envisions that this subunit might be added to others already being studied for their ability to induce antibody responses. Together, these multiple subunits might safely induce both antibody and T cell responses, thereby better combating plague.
According to Dr. Smiley, there is no licensed plague vaccine in the United States. Together with postdoctoral associate Jr-Shiuan Lin, he is working to develop a vaccine that will protect members of the armed services and public from a "plague bomb."