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MedGenMed. 2003 Mar 21;5(1):1.

Anthrax-protective effects of yeast beta 1,3 glucans.

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Chemical and Biological Defence Section, Defence R&D Canada, Suffield, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Can



The recent events increasing the threat of bioterrorism have prompted a widespread search for defenses against this peril.


To evaluate the anthrax-protective effect of beta1,3-glucan immune modulators (PGG-glucan and WGP beta glucan) in an experimental animal model.


Beta1,3-glucan immune modulators were administered by subcutaneous injection to Balb/c mice 2 days prior to anthrax challenge. WGP beta glucan was administered by daily oral gavage for 7 days prior to challenge, or in drinking water for 10 days postchallenge with a lethal dose of Bacillus anthracis spores. Survival, survival time, and microbial bioburden relative to an infected, untreated control group were assessed.


A single injected dose of PGG-glucan or WGP beta glucan immune modulators given 2 days before challenge significantly: (a) increased the survival rate of infected mice (2.5-fold), (b) diminished the bacterial load in the lungs of infected mice (4-8-fold), and (c) increased the proportion of bacteria-free animals 10 days after challenge (2-fold). In mice prophylactically administered oral WGP beta glucan for 1 week prior to infection, survival increased from 50% to 100%; therapeutic administration of oral WGP beta glucan for 10 days postinfection increased survival from 30% up to 90% in treatment groups.


These results demonstrate the potential for beta1,3-glucan immune modulators to provide a significant degree of protection against anthrax, a potential biological warfare (BW) agent in a mouse model of anthrax infection. Further studies are needed to optimize protection, evaluate activity in combination with other treatment options, demonstrate activity in a validated primate model of infection, and determine if protection is effective against other potential BW agents.

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