Cuba makes medical breakthrough

Havana, Cuba, June 30, 2006 – Cuba has made a scientific breakthrough in creating a “plantibody” for the production of the hepatitis B vaccine.

The Cuban Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) dubbed it a “plantibody” which is actually a monoclonal antibody from transgenic plants – tobacco.

Deputy Director of CICB, Carlos Borroto, told a news conference in Havana that the plantibody was approved on April 11 for human use and production is well underway. So far 145 million doses were used in trials without single problem being reported he said.

The plantibody was created from a non-commercial version of the ancestral tobacco plant which is grown with thicker leaves in an inert environment without soil.

Up to this point, antibodies were derived from lab mice which was a time consuming and costly method.

The hepatitis B virus is transmitted by exposure to the blood and body fluids of an infected person and can result in liver disease and cancer. About 10% of cases progress to chronic hepatitis. It can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, and can cause cirrhosis, chronic active hepatitis, and liver cancer.