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In what is being hailed as a major breakthrough in biotechnology, Cuban researchers report that their synthetic vaccine against the 'Hib' bacterium is ready for clinical testing. The Hib — or Haemophilus influenzae type B — bacterium causes meningitis and kills some 600,000 children a year in developing countries.

The vaccine is based on synthetic chains of simple sugars, which mimic those found on the surface of the bacteria. The Cuban-Canadian team pushed ahead for more than a decade to produce it, despite US embargoes and daunting technical difficulties.

Cuba researchers are also making progress with synthetic vaccines for pneumonia, among other diseases, while three Cuban cancer vaccines were licensed for use in the United States last week.

Link to full news story in Science

Link to full research paper by Verez-Bencomo et al in Science

References: Science 305, 460 (2004); Science 305, 522 (2004)

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