Tobacco has acquired a bad rap because of the obvious dangers associated with smoking. But a recent lifesaving discovery may help this plant redeem its shady reputation.
New research that appeared in The FASEB Journal reports that scientists have produced an antibody in genetically altered (GMO) 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. However, it is not clear how critics of GMO technology feel about this application of the gene-altering technique.
“Rabies continues to kill many thousands of people throughout the developing world every year and can also affect international travelers,” said Leonard Both, a researcher involved in the work from the Hotung Molecular Immunology Unit 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.”