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Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in California have been exploring the possibilities of suppressing the psychoactive effects of cocaine by active immunisation (Carrera et al. Nature, 378:727,1995). They have linked a hapten derived from cocaine to a carrier protein (keyhole limpet hemocyanin) to produce a conjugate that stimulated the immune system to produce antibodies in rats.

The efficacy of immunisation was measured in animals given cocaine intraperitoneally. The animals were immunised with the conjugate and booster shots given 21 and 35 days after the first injection. Control animals received only the hemocyanin. The drug produces a variety of effects including increases in locomotor activity which were measured on the 3rd, 7th and 10th day after the last booster shot (data given below):

Total Activity (90 mins)
Day Control Immunised
3 987.44 + 149.5 555.07 + 124.7
7 1035.19 + 152.92 598.25 + 121.46
10 719.23 + 133.77 443.24 + 199.50

The responses to an unrelated stimulant, amphetamine, were also measured on the 3rd day following immunisation (control 892.35 177.51; Immunised: 948.75 217.51)

Brains of the animals tested were removed and the content of cocaine in the striatal and cerebellar areas were measured. Levels of cocaine were found to be 52% lower in the striatal tissue and 77% lower in cerebellar areas from animals that had been immunised in comparison with controls.


Publications provide ample resources for writing problems. In this case I have merely summarized data from a publication. Once again, the students will learn to struggle through to understand both the process of immunization and the mechanism of action of cocaine, amphetamines. Enough key words have been incorporated. The larger issue of drug abuse and procedures designed to deal with it form another component of the problem.

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