New Hope for Boy Scouts: Poison Ivy Vaccine

“Poison Ivy,” written by Lieber & Stoller, interpreted by Manfred Mann, 1966.

Each summer, 10 million to 50 million Americans get painful, itchy contact dermatitis skin rashes from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Things are about to get worse as the climate crisis makes poison ivy more toxic and expands its range. Higher levels of carbon dioxide make the plants produce a more allergenic form of urushiol, the oily sap resin responsible for the rash.

But there’s hope:

“Human research is proceeding with a compound called PDC-APB, which would be injected as a vaccine once every year or two to prevent poison ivy misery. Developed at the University of Mississippi, it is a synthetic version of urushiol’s active component. ‘We believe the shot will lead to desensitization and reduce or eliminate reactions to poison ivy, oak and sumac,’ says Ray Hage, CEO of Hapten Sciences, which has licensed the compound. It works well in guinea pigs …, passed initial safety testing in humans and is about to be evaluated in a small randomized controlled trial. People are beating down the door to try the vaccine, Hage reports: ‘Every March I start to get e-mails from people asking, ‘Where is the drug? Can I be in a trial?’”

— “A Vaccine against Poison Ivy Misery Is in the Works as Scientists Also Explore New Treatment Paths,” Claudia Wallis, Scientific American

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