Washington: In a bid to tackle the growing problem of alcoholism, a new vaccine that gives alcoholics an immediate and heavy hangover will soon be tested in India after preclinical trials in Chile, researchers say.
The preclinical trial preludes the phase one clinical trial in India, when doctors will inject people with the vaccine for the first time. If all goes well, the vaccination could be available as soon as two years from now, Dr Juan Asenjo, director of the Institute for Cell Dynamics and Biotechnology at Universidad de Chile, was quoted as saying.
The vaccine, which would be effective for between six months and a year, works by sending a biochemical message to the liver telling it not to express genes that metabolise alcohol.
Normally, the liver turns alcohol into the hangover-causing compound called acetaldehyde which is then broken down by a metabolising enzyme.
If someone who`s been vaccinated tries to drink alcohol, they will immediately experience severe nausea, accelerated heartbeat, and general discomfort. Once the vaccine has been administered it cannot be reversed, the report said.
Asenjo thinks that although the vaccine is not a cure-all, it could provide an important first step.
"People who end up alcoholic have a social problem; a personality problem because they`re shy, whatever, and then they are depressed, so it`s not so simple.
"But if we can solve the chemical, the basic part of the problem, I think it could help quite a bit," Asenjo said.
Asenjo said if all goes well, the vaccination could be available as soon as two years from now. The vaccine could affect hundreds of millions of alcoholics worldwide.
"If it works, it`s going to have a worldwide impact, but with many vaccines one has to test them carefully. I think the chances that this one will work are quite high," said Asenjo.
The vaccine would work for six months to one year through RNA, which can control gene expression. The so-called anti-aldh2 antisense RNA acts as a messenger to tell the liver not to express genes that metabolise alcohol.
In other words, the vaccine ups the ante on hangovers in order to discourage consumption.
Asenjo said his research team in Chile is heading up the only trial of alcohol vaccines in the world.
The drug doesn`t ease intense cravings and has a high toxicity level. Coping with harsher hangovers is apparently a tough pill to swallow as patients often don`t continue taking the medicine as directed.