Lifewatch: Bubonic Plague

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

ORLANDO, FL (WECT) - The Bubonic Plague caused one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, and has killed more than 200-million people worldwide.

Now, the threat of another outbreak is as real as ever.  Soon, researchers say, a pill could be your best protection.

In the mid-fourteenth century, the Bubonic Plague tore through Asia, India, and Europe, killing a quarter of the world's population.

"I just kind of look back on history and things happen and you just kind of move on from it. I don't want to live my life worrying about it all the time," said Andrea Reyes, a mother.

But the plague may not be history.  The Centers for Disease Control lists the Bubonic Plague as one of the top bioterrorism threats.

Molecular biologist Henry Daniell created a vaccine by injecting genes from Yersinia Pestis, the bacterium that causes the Bubonic Plague, into plant cells, which are then put into capsules.  The hope is the body will develop immunity to the plague.

The vaccine was tested in rats exposed to 50 billion spores of the plague.  An enormous amount that Daniell says humans would never face.

Within three days, all of the unvaccinated rats and 3/4 of those given the injectable vaccine died.  But, every rat given the oral vaccine survived, with no traces of the plague left in their bodies.

Because it doesn't require an injection, the vaccine could be easily distributed to the public, but now, researchers hope they can keep history from repeating.

Daniell expects the capsules for the plague to be available to the public in as little as two years.