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Kicking the smoking habit: By vaccination?

Posting in Healthcare

How many smokers would be happy to get a vaccination, instead of using a patch or gum?

We've tried everything. Nicotine patches, gum, electronic cigarettes, mints and more. However, sometimes, it just doesn't happen -- perhaps you're trying to quit smoking and then have a few drinks down the local bar, or a particularly stressful day at work induces you to "just have one".

Quitting the habit is difficult for many people. However, if you take away the effect and make the experience unpleasant, would it be easier to stop smoking?

How many smokers would be happy to get a vaccination, instead of using a patch or gum?

Researchers in the U.S. have recently finished a study on mice, published in Science Translational Medicine, which outlines testing of a vaccine that floods the system with antibodies that attack any present nicotine -- which, in turn, would remove the chemical element of the habit.

After vaccination, the levels of nicotine found in the brain of the mice was reduced by 85 percent after they were injected with the chemical, in comparison to a control group without the vaccine.

Although further tests would be required before even considering a human trial, lead researcher Prof Ronald Crystal is optimistic that these kinds of treatments may eventually be used to curb smoking addiction.

Crystal said:

"As far as we can see, the best way to treat chronic nicotine addiction from smoking is to have these Pacman-like antibodies on patrol, clearing the blood as needed before nicotine can have any biological effect."

Other "vaccines" have been developed for the same purpose, but none have had the drastic chemical reduction levels that the U.S. team's trial has recorded. The vaccine is in itself a modified virus that infects the liver, spreading instructions to create "anti-nicotine" antibodies.

If the results are able to be replicated in human subjects, Crystal believes that the vaccine may be able to help those trying -- but failing -- to quit.

"We are very hopeful that this kind of vaccine strategy can finally help the millions of smokers who have tried to stop, exhausting all the methods on the market today, but find their nicotine addiction to be strong enough to overcome these current approaches."

It is not currently known whether the vaccine would be safe for humans. Not only this, but if a vaccine is produced, questions may become raised over vaccinating people before they begin smoking, and the issues that surround this.

(via BBC)

Image credit: Valentin Ottone

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure