A fentanyl vaccine alters fentanyl distribution and protects against fentanyl-induced effects in mice and rats

Michael D. Raleigh, Federico Baruffaldi, Samantha J. Peterson, Morgan Le Naour, Theresa M. Harmon, Jennifer R. Vigliaturo, Paul R. Pentel, Marco Pravetoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that has been increasingly used to adulterate heroin, cocaine, and counterfeit prescription pills, leading to an increase in opioid-induced fatal overdoses in the United States, Canada, and Europe. A vaccine targeting fentanyl could offer protection against the toxic effects of fentanyl in both recreational drug users and others in professions at risk of accidental exposure. This study focuses on the development of a vaccine consisting of a fentanyl-based hapten (F) conjugated to keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) carrier protein or to GMP-grade subunit KLH (sKLH). Immunization with F-KLH in mice and rats reduced fentanyl-induced hotplate antinociception, and in rats reduced fentanyl distribution to the brain compared with controls. F-KLH did not reduce the antinociceptive effects of equianalgesic doses of heroin or oxycodone in rats. To assess the vaccine effect on fentanyl toxicity, rats immunized with F-sKLH or unconjugated sKLH were exposed to increasing subcutaneous doses of fentanyl. Vaccination with F-sKLH shifted the dose-response curves to the right for both fentanyl-induced antinociception and respiratory depression. Naloxone reversed fentanyl effects in both groups, showing that its ability to reverse respiratory depression was preserved. These data demonstrate preclinical selectivity and efficacy of a fentanyl vaccine and suggest that vaccines may offer a therapeutic option in reducing fentanyl-induced side effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)282-291
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Drug Abuse [Grants DA026300, DA038876]. https://doi.org/10.1124/jpet.118.253674.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2019 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.


  • Analgesics, Opioid/antagonists & inhibitors
  • Animals
  • Bradycardia/blood
  • Fentanyl/antagonists & inhibitors
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Respiratory Insufficiency/blood
  • Vaccines/pharmacology

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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