Scientists Develop Virus to Fight Cocaine Addiction

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have developed a virus that, based on animal studies, may curb cocaine cravings in addicted individuals, the BBC reported June 22.

Researchers previously had developed proteins that reduce cocaine’s effects, but it was difficult to get them to bypass the body’s defenses. The virus, on the other hand, is able to pass the defenses in the nervous system and produce proteins where they have the most effect in curbing cocaine cravings.

Researchers injected the virus into the noses of rats twice a day for three days. On the fourth day, cocaine was administered. The scientists found that the cocaine had less effect on the animals “infected” with the virus, and showed fewer signs of behavior typical of cocaine exposure.

“We have shown a promising strategy in the continuing effort to find effective treatments for cocaine addiction,” the researchers wrote. “Whereas previous protein-based treatments have relied on peripheral drug-protein interactions, our approach delivers the therapeutic protein agent directly into the central nervous system, the site of drug action.”

Lead researcher Professor Kim Janda said the virus could be used in conjunction with abstinence programs and other vaccines.

The study is published in the

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. June 2004

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