Here is a conundrum in the culture wars; genetically modified tobacco has been shown to have numerous beneficial effects and now another one has been added.
The treatment for rabies (painful shots, thankfully not all in the stomach in 2013) is not as bad as the disease (death) but it is hardly civilized, so here is hoping the anti-science crowd does not claim genetically modified tobacco will create giant rats with SuperRabies. Rabies deaths are not a big issue in the USA, 10 a year or so, and therefore it may be safe to do fundraising campaigns about Frankentobacco here, but for developing nations a better solution would save a lot of lives.
In a new report, scientists produced a monoclonal antibody in transgenic tobacco plants that was shown to neutralize the rabies virus. This new antibody works by preventing the virus from attaching to nerve endings around the bite site and keeps the virus from traveling to the brain.
To make this advance, they "humanized" the sequences for the antibody so people could tolerate it. Then, the antibody was produced using transgenic tobacco plants as an inexpensive production platform. The antibody was purified from the plant leaves and characterized with regards to its protein and sugar composition.
The antibody was also shown to be active in neutralizing a broad panel of rabies viruses, and the exact antibody docking site on the viral envelope was identified using certain chimeric rabies viruses.
"Rabies continues to kill many thousands of people throughout the developing world every year and can also affect international travelers," said Leonard Both, M.Sc., co-author and researcher at St. George's, University of London. "An untreated rabies infection is nearly 100 percent fatal and is usually seen as a death sentence. Producing an inexpensive antibody in transgenic plants opens the prospect of adequate rabies prevention for low-income families in developing countries."
Published in The FASEB Journal.