By Imogen Crispe
A new vaccine could help people quit smoking and stop children ever starting.
US researchers have developed an injection which could protect people against nicotine addiction.
It has already been successfully tested in mice at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and uses genetically engineered antibodies to stop nicotine reaching the brain, removing the pleasurable feeling of cigarettes.
Co-director of New Zealand Tobacco Control Research Dr Chris Bullen is excited about the prospect of another way to help people quit smoking.
He says there are 600,000 smokers in New Zealand and 50 percent of smokers die of a smoking-caused illness.
Dr Bullen, who is also an associate professor of population health at the University of Auckland, says the antibody vaccine could be useful for people who have had no success in quitting using other methods.
“We have seen people absolutely at the end of their tether, who know they have to quit for their health’s sake and have tried everything. Anything that expands the range of options is a good thing.”
But Dr Bullen says it may not work for everyone.
“It could be one of the solutions but there’s no magic bullet. People smoke for different reasons, in different circumstances and in different stages of life.”
Dr Bullen says there have been controversial suggestions that the vaccine could be given to children to prevent them from ever forming a nicotine addiction.
“Like HPV [an STD vaccine] it could prevent the outcomes of unsafe behaviours.”
He says one cigarette can result in addiction, and this could prevent that.
“Smoking wouldn’t have any reward in it.”
Dr Bullen says one of the appeals of this vaccine is its potentially long-term effect.
“This one is a bit of a breakthrough because it provides longer term immunisation.”
But other nicotine vaccines trialled in the past have either only had a temporary effect or not worked well in humans.
“Some things which work in animals don’t work in humans,” Dr Bullen says.
A vaccine called NicVAX was trialled in humans last year with results showing those vaccinated were no better off than those with a placebo.
Another potential problem with the new antibody vaccine, Dr Bullen says, is even if nicotine doesn’t reach the brain, there could be other chemicals in the cigarette that still cause an appealing feeling.
source: newshub archive