Tobacco a future weapon against the flu - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Tobacco a future weapon against the flu

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(05/15/13) - Tobacco: the warnings about smoking and chewing tobacco are too many to count, but tobacco could actually be the future weapon of choice against one of the most common and potentially deadly viruses - the flu!

"It's something very, very new and it's something very, very unique," says Charles Bryant, the greenhouse manager for bio-pharmaceutical company, Medicago. "The vaccine is actually produced inside the leaves itself."

Vice president of operations, Mike Wanner, says the plants are submerged in a natural bacteria that is genetically engineered.

Then, he says, the tobacco is put in a vacuum environment, "it draws in, the agrobacterium, and then the agrobacterium expands in the plant and that becomes the virus-like particle that is the vaccine."

Traditional flu vaccines are made from chicken eggs. Each egg can produce about four doses. Wanner says each one of these tobacco plants can make between 30 and 100 doses. The plant-based vaccine is being tested on various flu strains right now.

"It induces a very strong immune response in humans," Wanner says.

If trials go as planned, we're told the tobacco flu vaccine could be on the market sometime in 2016. Officials say the plants could also be used to make a variety of other vaccines, including one for rabies.

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