Fentanyl Vaccine Breakthrough – A Cure For This Crisis?

Scientists are encouraged by a possible Fentanyl vaccine breakthrough that could stop the drug's deadly and addictive effects.

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

Fentanyl vaccine breakthrough

Fentanyl is, by far, the deadliest drug in America. Contributing to this unprecedented crisis is the fact that Fentanyl is often times found in combination with other illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. And to make matters worse, the deadly drug is now also being found in the illegal pill trade disguised as prescription drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and even Adderall. This crisis, with seemingly no answers, may have finally found the answer that could potentially tip the scales with this brutal addiction – a Fentanyl vaccine breakthrough.


There needs to be a Fentanyl vaccine breakthrough because frankly, it has become such a major issue. Fentanyl is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) synthetic opioid drug that is used both as an analgesic for pain relief and an anesthetic. The drug is 50 times more powerful than heroin and almost 100 times more potent than morphine, making the drug extremely lethal.

Dr. Frita Fisher explained to Fox and Friends about how deadly the drug is, “For Fentanyl, it literally takes 2 mg of it for it to be lethal. That’s 1/10 the weight of a single grain of rice.”

Dr. Fisher also spoke about how fentanyl has been finding its way into recreational drugs as well. “And, many people who don’t take fentanyl may take cocaine, or smoke marijuana casually, or take a Percocet, people are lacing those things with fentanyl.”


While the COVID pandemic did massive damage on its own, the number of drug overdose fatalities during its time jumped significantly. In 2020 alone, the number of overdose deaths hit almost 92,000, which was a 30 percent rise from the previous year. Fentanyl was one of the main contributors to this and the numbers have continued to go up.

“Fentanyl is killing Americans at an unprecedented rate,” says Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “Drug traffickers are driving addiction and increasing their profits by mixing fentanyl with other illicit drugs. Tragically, many overdose victims have no idea they are ingesting deadly fentanyl until it’s too late.”

Enter researchers from the University of Houston. They say they now have a Fentanyl vaccine breakthrough solution to this out-of-control problem. Their solution is a new Fentanyl vaccine breakthrough that will block the deadly drug from entering the brain.

The Fentanyl vaccine has yet to be tested on humans, so far only having been tested in lab rats. But the results are more than promising. In the 60 rats tested, the vaccine allowed the rats to produce anti-fentanyl antibodies that completely stop the effects of the drug and rids the body of it through the kidneys. The vaccine thusly blocks the fentanyl “high” a user would get, making it theoretically possible for the person to quit the drug altogether or even prevent a relapse.

“I think the research on this is fascinating,” said Virginia Guy, executive director of the Drug Education Council. “Right now, this is just at the rat study level, but I think it holds some promise.” In this battle, promise around a Fentanyl vaccine breakthrough is a good and welcome thing to have.


The lead author in the University of Houston’s Fentanyl vaccine breakthrough study, Dr. Colin Haile, says his team has been working on this vaccine for nearly six years and are very encouraged and happy with the results so far.

“Our vaccine is able to generate anti-fentanyl antibodies that bind to the consumed fentanyl and prevent it from entering the brain, allowing it to be eliminated out of the body via the kidneys. Thus, the individual will not feel the euphoric effects and can ‘get back on the wagon’ to sobriety,” Haile explained via a statement from the university.

What makes this Fentanyl vaccine breakthrough different from one like the COVID vaccine is “The vaccine technology is a very different strategy in that we are given a vaccine against a chemical,” Haile said. “And that chemical is fentanyl. Instead of, say, getting a vaccine against the pathogen, like a virus or bacteria. It’s much different.”

Also, according to the statement, the Fentanyl vaccine breakthrough contains a key component that is used to fight addictions. It has in it an ingredient called dmLT, which comes from E. coli. dmLT, which is known as an adjuvant. This means that the dmLT will boost the immune system as it responds to vaccines.

The antibodies will block fentanyl and stop it from crossing over into the brain. If the drug cannot take this path, then a person will be unable to get high from it. This lack of getting high, hopefully, with no longer motivate a user from wanting the drug.

“And more importantly,” says Dr. Fisher, “the fentanyl is not able to suppress the respiratory center. So now, that cannot stop someone from breathing and kill them. And that’s what’s causing over 110,000 overdose deaths a year in this country.”


Leading up to this possible Fentanyl vaccine breakthrough, the numbers are drastic and deadly caused by a drug that was first developed in 1959 and introduced in the ‘60s as an anesthetic.

If taken, the drug can produce effects such as pain relief, euphoria, relaxation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction, and respiratory depression.

If one was to overdose, the symptoms may look like stupor, cold and clammy skin, changes in pupillary size, coma, cyanosis, and respiratory failure leading to death. The number of drug overdose deaths in 2021 jumped 15 percent to nearly 108,000. Obviously, fentanyl has contributed mightily to this number, but there is another combination that is becoming just as deadly.

Tranq is the name of this drug and it is a combination of fentanyl and the animal sedative Xylazine. One of the horrible effects of this combined drug is a flesh-eating abscess. Across the country and into Mexico, the DEA has continued the losing battle to keep these combinations of drugs, along with fentanyl itself, from finding its way into the hands of pushers and users.

More and more, though, they are seeing fentanyl being turned into illegal pills like oxycodone. Scott Oulton is the DEA’s Office of Forensic Sciences deputy assistant administrator and says, “Over 99% of what we see are fake. They contain fentanyl.” He claims that 800 grams of the drug could easily be turned into 400,000 to 500,000 fake and potentially deadly pills.


The University of Houston team is very excited with the fentanyl vaccine breakthrough results they have seen in their lab rats and look forward to starting the human trials, where they believe they will see the same positive results. Their immediate plan is to begin manufacturing a clinical-grade fentanyl vaccine in the next few months so they can actually start testing in humans.

“We are very excited to be moving forward in manufacturing the vaccine,” Haile said. “And once we get the clinical-grade material, the next step is to do toxicology testing for the FDA.” The researchers also wanted to point out that the vaccine, as tested, “did not cause any adverse side effects” to any of the rats involved in the vaccine studies.

Clinical trials would begin after the fentanyl vaccine FDA approval, with the ultimate hope that after approval and trials, they can start selling the vaccine within a three-to-four-year timeframe.

“I would call it hope,” Haile said. “And you know, ‘game changer’ as well, primarily because the medications that we use presently aren’t addressing the opioid epidemic. In fact, the opioid epidemic is getting worse. And so we need a different treatment strategy.”