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Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2009 Dec;9(12):1477-86. doi: 10.1517/14712590903307347.

Anthrax prevention and treatment: utility of therapy combining antibiotic plus vaccine.

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National Cancer Institute (NCI), NCI, NIH, Frederick, MD 21702, USA.


The intentional release of anthrax spores in 2001 confirmed this pathogen's ability to cause widespread panic, morbidity and mortality. While individuals exposed to anthrax can be successfully treated with antibiotics, pre-exposure vaccination can reduce susceptibility to infection-induced illness. Concern over the safety and immunogenicity of the licensed US vaccine (Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA)) has fueled research into alternatives. Second-generation anthrax vaccines based on purified recombinant protective antigen (rPA) have entered clinical trials. These rPA vaccines induce neutralizing antibodies that prevent illness, but the magnitude and duration of the resultant protective response is modest. Efforts are underway to bolster the immunogenicity of rPA by combining it with adjuvants and other immunostimulatory agents. Third generation vaccines are under development that utilize a wide variety of immunization platforms, antigens, adjuvants, delivery methods and routes of delivery to optimize the induction of a protective immunity. For the foreseeable future, vaccination will rely on first and second generation vaccines co-administered with immune adjuvants. Optimal post-exposure treatment of immunologically naive individuals should include a combination of vaccine plus antibiotic therapy.

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