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Salmonella vaccine on the way

Animals first, humans later

An expanded Web version of segments seen on CNN
Inside May 8, 1997
Web posted at: 10:48 a.m. EDT (1448 GMT)

From Correspondent Dick Wilson

ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) -- Millions of people around the world contract serious cases of salmonella food poisoning each year, most often from improper handling of meat, usually chicken, pork and beef. Now a new vaccine -- for use on animals -- may cut that number dramatically.

The vaccine, created from a live salmonella strain given to baby chickens, was developed over the last seven years by Professor Roy Curtiss, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

"We've removed some genes in order to prevent it from causing disease," Curtiss said. The baby chickens ingest the vaccine through their drinking water and develop a lifelong immunity, he said.icon (584K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)


The immune response is similar to what happens to humans who are vaccinated against measles, Curtiss said.icon (375K/16 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

His vaccine -- made in a freeze-dried, concentrated form -- not only takes effect within a few hours, it also protects the chickens' eggs.

Curtiss sees promise in vaccinating all chickens raised for human consumption, slowing the spread of salmonella at the source.

Roy Curtiss explains the vaccine has been tested in many different animals and humans
movie icon (374K/10 sec. QuickTime movie)

And there's no reason why pigs, cattle and eventually humans couldn't also receive the vaccine, the professor says.

The vaccine for chickens is nearing U.S. government approval and should be available later this year. A human version could be up to 10 years away, according to Curtiss.

For now, the following steps provide the best defense against salmonella infection:

Raw meat

  • Cleanliness -- washing hands and cutting boards used to prepare meat.

  • Refrigeration -- keeping uncooked food cold.

  • Thorough cooking -- preparing meat at a temperature high enough to kill bacteria.

Salmonella, which can cause serious gastroenteritis, is becoming more resistant to antibiotics.

The disease is especially dangerous to young children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems.


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