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GM Maize Could Produce Hepatitis B Vaccine

Summary posted by Meridian on 4/7/2004

Source: SciDev.Net

Author(s): Wagdy Sawahel

A team of Egyptian scientists has genetically engineered maize plants to produce the HbsAg protein, which elicits an immune response against the hepatitis B virus and could be used as a vaccine. More than two billion people are infected with hepatitis B, and about 350 million of those are at high risk of serious illness and death from liver damage or liver cancer. The Egyptian research team, led by Hania El-itriby, director of Cairo's Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute, is now attempting to increase the amount of HbsAg protein produced by the genetically modified (GM) plants. A vaccine against hepatitis B is already available, but the researchers say that edible vaccines produced by GM plants would be cheaper and would not require refrigeration or skilled medical personnel. Reporting on the research results at a recent international conference on genetic engineering and biotechnology in Cairo, El-itriby said that producing cheap, effective vaccine against hepatitis B is vital, as many people cannot afford the current expensive vaccine. The researchers expect to begin tests of their vaccine's effectiveness on animals and humans in early 2005. The article can be viewed online at the link below.

The original article may still be available at http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=1316&language=1

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