Heroin Vaccine

  • Author: ChemistryViews
  • Published: 21 July 2011
  • Copyright: WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
  • Source / Publisher: Journal of Medicinal Chemistry/ACS
thumbnail image: Heroin Vaccine

Kim D. Jaqnda, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA, and colleagues developed a novel, dynamic anti-heroin vaccine. It produces antibodies that stop not only heroin from reaching the brain to produce euphoric effects, but also other psychoactive compounds like 6-acetylmorphine (6AM) metabolized from heroin.

A heroin-like hapten, a small molecule that elicits an immune response, was linked to a generic carrier protein called keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH). This was mixed with Alum, an adjuvant (vaccine additive).

Rats rapidly generated robust polyclonal antibodies in response to the vaccine. Addicted rats were less likely to "self-administer" heroin after several booster shots of the vaccine. In contrast, all of the control rats, including those given an non-dynamic vaccine simply targeting morphine, a substance related to heroin, self-administered the drug.


The heroin vaccine was found to be highly specific, it only produced no antibody response to other opioid-related drugs tested, such as oxycodone as well as drugs used for opioid dependence—methadone, naltrexone, and naloxone. If sufficiently selective antibody titers as seen in rats can be translated in humans, this vaccine could readily be used in tandem with opiate replacement therapy (where available) as a synergistic treatment option for addicts.


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