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Nicotine is the principal addictive component in tobacco, and following uptake acts in the central nervous system. The smoking-cessation efforts of most smokers fail because a single slip often delivers sufficient nicotine to the brain to reinstate the drug-seeking behaviour. Blocking nicotine from entering the brain by induction of specific antibodies may be an effective means to prevent such relapses. The hapten nicotine was coupled to virus-like particles (VLP) formed by the coat protein of the bacteriophage Qb. In preclinical experiments, this Nicotine-Qb VLP (NicQb) vaccine induced strong antibody responses. After intravenous nicotine challenge, vaccinated mice exhibited strongly reduced nicotine levels in the brain compared with control mice. In a phase I study, 32 healthy non-smokers were immunized with NicQb. The vaccine was safe and well-tolerated. All volunteers who received NicQb showed nicotine-specific IgM antibodies at day 7 and nicotine-specific IgG antibodies at day 14. Antibody levels could be boosted by a second injection or the addition of Alum as an adjuvant and the antibodies had a high affinity for nicotine. These data suggest that antibodies induced by NicQb may prevent relapses by sequestering nicotine in the blood of immunized smokers.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Immunol

Publication Date





2031 - 2040


Adolescent, Adult, Allolevivirus, Animals, Double-Blind Method, Drug Evaluation, Preclinical, Female, Humans, Immunoglobulin G, Male, Mice, Middle Aged, Nicotine, Tobacco Use Disorder, Vaccines, Vaccines, Synthetic