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July 14, 2016

First vaccine to prevent Alzheimer’s disease is a step closer after Flinders University breakthrough

EXPERTS at Flinders University in Adelaide have made a “breakthrough discovery” which could bring about the world’s first dementia vaccine.

The vaccine, developed by research teams at Flinders University and in the US, could be used to prevent and even reverse the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.

The successful vaccine formula targets ­abnormal beta-amyloid and tau proteins that trigger Alzheimer’s disease.

If human clinical trials are successful, a vaccine could be developed in as soon as three to five years.

Flinders University medicine professor Nikolai ­Petrovsky told The Australian that the breakthrough was so significant, there was confidence it would eventually be used as a preventive vaccine, much like a flu shot, that could eradicate dementia.

“You could actually give it to everyone, say when they turn 50, a bit like we give all high-risk groups a flu shot, and thereby stop it in its tracks. You can immunise for it before it even starts,” he said.

There was also potential to use it to reverse some of the late symptoms of the disease, he said.

Clinical trials in humans were expected in the next couple of years, he said.

According to Alzheimer’s Australia there are more than 353,800 Australians living with dementia and without a medical breakthrough that number is expected to rise to almost 900,000 by 2050.

The World Health Organisation has projected the total global societal cost of dementia-related illnesses and care at more than $US600 billion a year, with 750 million new cases of Alzheimer’s diagnosed each year.

The research findings, reported in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal, are the result of a collaboration between Prof Petrovsky’s team at Flinders University and US researchers at the Institute for Molecular Medicine and University of California, Irvine.