New York : With the use of synthetic opioid “designer drugs” on the rise, scientists have developed a vaccine to curb addiction and even prevent fatal overdoses, reports IANS

In preclinical tests, the vaccine was found to prevent the synthetic opioid fentanyl – a painkiller 50 to 500 times more potent than morphine – which some drug dealers now use as a mix-in or substitute for heroin – from reaching the brain, according to the study published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.”We want to stay one step ahead of these clandestine laboratories making illegal opioids for black market demand,” said one of the researcher Kim Janda, professor of chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in San Diego, US.

“The importance of this new vaccine is that it can block the toxic effects of this drug, a first in the field,”  Janda noted. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 200-percent increase in overdose deaths involving opioids from 2000 to 2014, citing the availability of fentanyl and fentanyl variants as a major contributor.

While there are treatments such as naloxone for opioid overdose or methadone for addiction, Janda noted that many people still relapse. “These treatments are working for some people, but there is clearly a gap that needs attention,” he said. The new vaccine takes advantage of the body’s own immune system. The vaccine cocktail contains a molecule that mimics fentanyl’s core structure. When given the vaccine, the immune system is “trained” to produce antibodies to neutralise it, the study said.