CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (WHDH) - Researchers at the University of Houston are developing a vaccine to prevent users from overdosing on fentanyl.

The vaccine is very much still in the developmental phase, but experts are already calling it a potential gamechanger. While emergency overdose reverser Narcan treats an overdose after it’s already happened, the vaccine would prevent the overdose from happening altogether.

The vaccine would block the deadly drug from entering the brain, just like a vaccine to prevent illness, by generating anti-fentanyl antibodies that prevent the user from getting high.

Experts like Bertha Madras PHD, a professor of psychobiology at Harvard’s medical school, said it could flip the script on the opioid crisis by preventing relapse in addicts trying to quit.

“There is a rationale for this that is probably very valid, and could save lives,” Madras said.

Madras has done extensive work with drug policy. She doesn’t see the vaccine as a cure-all to end addiction, but does believe the impact on harm reduction could be huge.

“There are many people who don’t know that they’re getting fentanyl,” she said. “And therefore it is a, it serves as a protector.”

However, she fears it would not appeal to addicts intentionally seeking fentanyl for a stronger high.

The drug could also be modified, making the vaccine useless. But after an unprecedented 1000+ overdose deaths in the past year, Madras welcomes any new weapon to fight the epidemic.

“My dream is that nobody, nobody should ever die of a drug overdose,” Madras said. “And this is going to be one of the pieces of equipment that may help turn the curve around.”

Clinical studies in rats showed no adverse side effects to the vaccines, and researchers hope to begin clinical trials in humans in the coming months.

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