Flu_vaccines_Reuters.JPGBy: Jennifer Welsh

Could one shot cure a hard drug addiction? Researchers have developed not one, but two cocaine vaccines that show promise in blocking the highly addictive drug before it reaches the brain.

The vaccines have been successful in monkeys and mice injected with cocaine.

The vaccines were both developed by teams led by Ronald Crystal, a researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. They could be the first of a new line of anti-addiction treatments that use our own bodies to fight off addiction.

“Cocaine addiction is a major social problem. It s causes changes to behavior, it’s expensive and it’s illegal,” Crystal told LiveScience. “It’s very difficult to stop. If we could successfully develop a cocaine vaccine it would really be a very positive social advance.”

The vaccines are still in the labs and not yet available for humans, but could be within a few years, Crystal said. They use antibodies — proteins of the immune system that attach to potentially dangerous molecules, tagging them for take-down by white blood cells — against a cocaine-like molecule to clear the body of the drug. [Trippy Tales: The History of 8 Hallucinogens]

Active immunity

The first so-called “active” vaccine uses harmless viral proteins to introduce the body’s immune system to a cocaine-like molecule. The body’s immune system sees the virus-molecule combination as a threat and produces anti-cocaine antibodies.

The latest work on this vaccine was presented June 12 at the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s annual meeting in Miami Beach by study researcher Shankar Vallabhajosula, also of Weil Cornell Medical College.

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