Fentanyl vaccine could stop opioid use disorder relapses

University of Houston researchers have developed a fentanyl vaccine that could prevent relapses for individuals with opioid use disorder.

"Our vaccine is able to generate anti-fentanyl antibodies that bind to the consumed fentanyl and prevent it from entering the brain, allowing it to be eliminated out of the body via the kidneys," lead author Colin Haile, MD, PhD, research associate professor of psychology at the university, said. "Thus, the individual will not feel the euphoric effects and can 'get back on the wagon' to sobriety."

The vaccine contains an adjuvant derived from E. coli called dmLT, according to a Nov. 14 release from the university. This component boosts the immune system's response to vaccines, increasing the effectiveness. It caused no adverse side effects in animal trials, according to the findings published in Pharmaceutics.

Eighty percent of people with opioid use disorder will relapse, the release said. About 2 milligrams of fentanyl, or the size of two grains of rice, can lead to a fatal overdose.

The team plans to manufacture a clinical-grade vaccine for human trials in the coming months, according to the release.

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