January 24, 1986

Anti-idiotype antibodies may do what vaccines don't

JAMA. 1986;255(4):447-448. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370040017003

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A new type of vaccine that may prove useful for protecting humans against a variety of diseases is being developed in experimental animals and reportedly has produced immunity against numerous viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

Reports say that, with this vaccine (and unlike conventional vaccines), no pathogenic antigen is needed to stimulate the host's immunity. Instead, this approach enlists "anti-idiotype antibodies."

An idiotype—the site where an antigen binds to an antibody—can itself act as an antigen to stimulate antibody production. Antibodies that are stimulated by idiotypes are called anti-idiotype antibodies.

If the idiotype could be represented by a domino with, say, four dots, the antigen might be a four-two combination and the anti-idiotype antibody might be a four-three. Both will hook up with the idiotype even though they are different "molecules."

It is debatable how far in the future this technique will be tried in humans. Some researchers suggest it will