A new vaccine that targets the deadly opioid fentanyl could be a “game changer” in the fight against the ongoing opioid epidemic, according to researchers.
The vaccine, which is still in the early stages of development, works by creating antibodies that bind to fentanyl and prevent it from crossing the blood-brain barrier. This, in turn, would stop the drug from reaching the brain and having its harmful effects.
In a recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers found that the vaccine was effective in protecting rats from the effects of fentanyl. The rats that were vaccinated showed no signs of respiratory depression, a common symptom of opioid overdose, even when they were exposed to high doses of the drug.
While the vaccine is still in the early stages of development and has yet to be tested in humans, the findings offer a promising first step in the fight against the ever-growing opioid epidemic. If successful, the vaccine could potentially save thousands of lives each year.
A new study has found that a vaccine against the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl could help reduce overdose deaths.
Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is often used as a cutting agent in illicit drugs, such as heroin, and has been linked to a surge in overdose deaths in recent years.
The new study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, found that a vaccine against fentanyl can stop the drug from reaching the brain and binding to receptors that cause its potent effects.
In a mouse model of fentanyl overdose, the vaccine protected against the lethal effects of the drug. The authors say the findings could lead to a potential “game changer” in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
Currently, there are no approved vaccines or treatments for fentanyl overdose. The study’s authors say the findings could help change that.
The findings “support the further development of a vaccine as a possible countermeasure for the ever-increasing misuse of fentanyl and other opioids,” they wrote.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Kim Janda, of the Scripps Research Institute, said in a press release that the vaccine could be used to protect first responders, military personnel, and others who are at risk of exposure to fentanyl.
“This is a first step, but a very important one,” Janda said. “We are hopeful that this approach will one day save lives.”
The findings come as the United States is grappling with an opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016.
Fentanyl was involved in about 28% of those deaths, and the CDC says the number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths has quadrupled since 2013.
The new study provides “a ray of hope in the fight against the opioid epidemic,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a press release.
“This study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that vaccines can be an effective tool in our arsenal to address this public health crisis,” Volkow said.