Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Smoking Cessation Health Center

Font Size

Vaccine May Block the Effect of Nicotine

Doctors May One Day Harness the Immune System to Help People Quit Smoking
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 27, 2012 -- Scientists say they've developed a vaccine that may one day protect people against the addictive effects of nicotine -- but for now they have to settle for some success in mice.

The vaccine uses the shell of a harmless virus that, much like the Trojan horse, carries into cells genetic instructions for making an antibody against nicotine. When cells are "infected" by the virus, they get tricked into churning out a protein that blocks nicotine's biological effects.

"It's sort of like having Pac-Man floating around in the blood. [The antibodies] bind to the nicotine and prevent it from reaching its receptors in the brain," says Ronald G. Crystal, MD, chairman and professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Researchers have tried to vaccinate people against nicotine before -- by directly injecting antibodies into the blood. The problem is that the antibodies disappear after only a few weeks, and the studies ultimately had disappointing results.

This time, researchers say they may have found a way to get the body to keep making more.

Testing a Vaccine Against Nicotine

In a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, Crystal and colleagues at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., described how they were able to successfully vaccinate mice against nicotine.

First, they injected mice with a viral shell that contained instructions for making the nicotine antibody. The viral shell also contained instructions to harmlessly infect the liver cells of the mice with these instructions, thus essentially using the liver as a factory to continuously churn out antibodies that attach to nicotine once it hits the bloodstream.

Weeks later, they found antibodies against nicotine in the blood of the treated mice.

Next they were able to show that if they injected the mice with nicotine -- about the amount in two cigarettes -- the antibodies in their blood would bind to the nicotine and prevent it from getting to the brain.

The mice treated with the experimental vaccine had more nicotine in their blood than mice treated with a placebo vaccine, and nearly all of it (83%) had been captured by an antibody. The mice injected with the active vaccine also had far less nicotine in their brains compared to the placebo-treated mice.

Today on WebMD

hands breaking a cigarette
Is quitting cold turkey an effective method?
14 tips to get you through the first hard days.
smoking man
Surprising impacts of tobacco on the body.
cigarette smoke
What happens when you kick the habit?

Filtered cigarettes
an array of e cigarettes
human heart
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms

man smoking cigarette
no smoking sign
Woman ashing cigarette in ashtray
chain watch