Scientists develop vaccine against tooth decay
April 29, 1998
Web posted at: 3:36 p.m. EDT (1936 GMT)
MOUNTAIN VIEW, California (CNN) -- Researchers say they have
developed a safe, effective and painless vaccine that could
prevent tooth decay by eliminating bacteria from the mouth.
Developed by California-based Planet Biotechnology, and
tested at Guy's Hospital in London, the plant-based vaccine
is painted on teeth and produces antibodies that prevent
harmful bacteria from sticking to teeth and causing cavities.
The vaccine was produced by genetically modifying tobacco
plants to carry antibodies to streptococcus mutans, which
causes 95 percent of tooth decay.
Volunteers received the tasteless, colorless vaccine twice a
week for three weeks for a total of six applications.
"What we showed is that by applying this antibody you can
prevent the bacteria that is targeted against --
streptococcus mutans -- from sticking to the teeth," Dr.
Julian Ma said.
To conduct the study, researchers first used a mouth rinse to
reduce the levels of the
bacteria in the volunteers to zero. Then they applied a
control, or placebo solution, to some patients and the
vaccine to others.
Within two months, the bacteria returned in the mouths of
the control group while those who received the vaccine were
protected for up to four months.
Ma said this is the first plant-derived vaccine from
genetically modified plants to ever go into human clinical
"We have now found a way of using plants to produce this
vaccine safely and in large quantities. It would not be
possible otherwise," he said.
Another vaccine, derived from mice, has proved successful in
fighting bacteria, but it is so difficult and expensive to
produce it has not been developed for consumer use.
Planet Biotechnology is planning to conduct a larger study
this summer with about 60 patients.
The company hopes they can roll out a consumer product in
2001 or 2002.
Reuters contributed to this report.