A team of researchers at the University of Houston (UH) have developed a fentanyl vaccine with the potential to save millions of lives from poisonings and addiction and effectively end the deadly fentanyl crisis.
On Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott celebrated the researchers’ achievement by touring the UH fentanyl vaccine lab and hosting a press conference with lab technicians and UH President Renu Khator, UH System Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta, and UH Associate Professor Dr. Colin Haile.
“Quite literally, fentanyl is killing Texas,” Gov. Abbot said during the tour.
Gov. Abbot cited data from the Texas Department of Health Services that reports 883 people in Texas died from a fentanyl-related overdose in 2020. That number jumped a shocking 89% in 2021 to 1,672 lives lost.
Fentanyl is trafficked into the U.S. by the Mexican drug cartel and often mixed with illegal street drugs (i.e. cocaine, heroin) or sold as counterfeits for legal prescription pills, such as Vicodin. This illegal opioid is popular among the cartel due to its cheapness and the ease of production.
This horrifying drug has tragically escalated the opioid crisis. This drug is fifty to a hundred times more potent than morphine. Even small doses of fentanyl, like two milligrams, can kill a person. Emergency personnel and first responders who touch or breathe it may also potentially be put in danger.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in 2020, the number of national opioid-related overdose deaths shot up from around fifty thousand the previous year to nearly seventy thousand. More than 80% of these deaths were attributed to synthetic opioids, predominantly fentanyl.
But now, UH vaccine researchers say that they have developed a vaccine that could finally end this national tragedy. Their vaccine develops antibodies against fentanyl.
How does it work? Once the vaccine-induced antibodies bind to fentanyl, they will prevent the drug from getting into the brain where it may trigger euphoric centers or trigger respiratory depression and opioid overdose death, said the Associated Press.
“Present treatments are not adequate so, we need a different strategy, a different way of addressing this problem, and that different way includes our vaccine,” said Dr. Colin Haile, Research Associate Professor of the UH Animal Behavior Core Facility at UH.
In Harris County, at least one person a day loses their life to a fentanyl-related overdose. It is the number one killer in America for people ages 18 to 45, Gov. Abbott said.