June 29/Perth, Australia/The West Australian -- Annual flu protection could soon be as simple as downing a spoonful of yogurt, with the results from a groundbreaking trial by West Australian scientist Barry Marshall paving the way for food-based vaccines.

The success of a human trial at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital is seen as a major step towards revolutionizing a multi-billion dollar global industry, allowing vaccines to be produced quickly and cheaply.

Marshall is using the same Helicobacter pylori bacteria that he and fellow scientist Robin Warren discovered caused stomach ulcers, earning the pair the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2005.

He has proven that harmless strains of the bacteria can piggyback vaccines without causing adverse side effects.

Results from the trial of 30 patients, released at the fifth World Vaccine Congress Asia in Singapore, showed the strains had no ill effects on the stomach while still producing an immune response.

"We can have a repertoire of strains, some which will stay in the body short term, maybe months, so can be good for things like seasonal flu, while others can stay in the body long term to protect against diseases like malaria," he said.

"We know about half the people in the world carry Helicobacter without it causing any symptoms, so we were always confident this approach was safe.

"The good thing is that nearly everyone we gave it to became 'infected' so the vaccination rate was very high."

Marshall and the privately owned company Ondek have already patented and genetically analyzed the tweaked strains, allowing them to produce a type of "birth certificate" when approaching health regulators.

Ondek was seeking approval for another round of clinical trials in which a flu virus gene would be attached to bacteria.

Marshall said the bacteria stimulated the body's immune system to produce antibodies, but the bacteria were also capable of evading the antibodies and continuing to reproduce in the stomach. He hoped to use this natural activity as a way of stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies to diseases such as swine flu and seasonal flu, and eventually using them to protect against a host of diseases, including malaria and cholera.

The technique could deliver insulin to people with diabetes or be used in immunotherapy vaccines for asthma.

Vaccines could also be put in the drinking water of cattle to prevent foot and mouth disease.


From the June 29, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.