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Enhanced cocaine vaccine blocks the high in mice

A new ingredient boosts an existing cocaine vaccine's ability to block the drug's high, a study with mice shows.
line of cocaine looks like decreasing graph

Adding an ingredient to an existing cocaine vaccine appears to enhance its effectiveness in blocking the drug’s high, a study with mice shows.

The vaccine, which is a liquid nose drop rather than needle injection, includes a new compound that helps the immune systems create antibody responses against cocaine.

While researchers have only tested the new formulation of the vaccine in mice, it shows promise for human populations, says senior author of the study Herman Staats, professor in the department of pathology and associate professor of immunology and medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine.

“By inducing antibody responses that block the activity of the drugs, we could prevent the euphoria or high that is associated with using the cocaine,” says Staats, who is also a member of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute.

“If the individuals do not get this ‘high’ from using the drug, they may be better able to remain in other treatment programs that help them recover from their addiction.”

Staats and colleagues compared the movements of mice that had received cocaine with those that had received cocaine and the vaccine to determine the effects of the dosage. Vaccinated mice showed less movement, which correlates to a decreased “high” in humans.

Cocaine is one of the most potent and addictive psycho-stimulants and there are no available drug therapies to treat addiction. The drug crosses the blood-brain barrier, enters the brain, and exerts its effects upon the central nervous system.

An estimated 2.2 million people in the United States were users of cocaine, according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health prepared by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

A group of researchers at Duke and RTI International, are also investigating how they could use a vaccine approach to treat opioid addiction.

The findings appear in npj Vaccines.

Source: Duke University

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