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ST. LOUIS - Local anthrax vaccine experiments could create a more effective treatment. Researchers at Saint Louis University and three other locations around the country hope to develop an anthrax vaccine in the form of a pill.

"It's always helpful when you don't have to use a needle to administer a vaccine," said Dr. Geoffrey Gorse, principal investigator for the anthrax vaccine study. "Swallowing a capsule is much preferable to an injection where there can be local pain and swelling and other symptoms at the injection site."

Anthrax can be turned into a biological weapon when spores containing the anthrax bacteria are released into the air and inhaled. In 2001, five people died when letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and to the offices of two U.S. Senators.

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"It can be a very serious, high mortality rate type of infection," said Gorse.

Currently an injected vaccine is used to protect members of the U.S. military from anthrax. The injected vaccine is effective in preventing the disease before exposure, but doesn't always work after anthrax exposure. Gorse hopes the new vaccine pill will be fast and effective.

"We feel that the immune response to this new vaccine will be quicker, faster," said Gorse.

Saint Louis University is looking for 30 volunteers willing to take the vaccine during Phase 1 of the study. Gorse says the new vaccine poses no risk to volunteers.

"There's no way that a person can get anthrax from the vaccine," said Gorse.

For information on the Saint Louis University anthrax vaccine study, 314-977-6333 or vaccine@slu.edu.

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