News of the WeekMicrobiology

Gene May Promise New Route to Potent Vaccines

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Science  07 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5416, pp. 883
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5416.883a

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On page 967 of this issue, a research team comes up with a new answer to the problem of live vaccines, namely, how to make the pathogen vigorous enough to trigger an immune defense by the host, yet too weak to lead to serious illness. They have found a gene that seems to orchestrate the activity of dozens of other genes needed for a full-blown infection by Salmonella typhimurium, a bacterium that causes food poisoning in humans and a typhoidlike disease in mice. When they knocked out the gene, the bacteria became powerless to cause disease but still elicited a fiery immune response in mice--in other words, they had apparently become the ideal vaccine.