Scientists developed a new vaccine against foot-and-mouth disease that doesn’t rely on a live virus and will be much more safe to produce.
The “synthetic” vaccine was created by taking protein shells that encase the virus and strengthening them, so the vaccine can be used in warm countries without refrigeration. Vaccines that were made from the live virus were fragile, and would breakdown unless they are kept cool.
“One of the big advantages is that since it is not derived from live virus, the production facility requires no special containment,” said David Stuart, a professor of biology at the University of Oxford, who led the research.
Results of the research were published in the journal PLOS Pathogens on Wednesday 27th March 2013. The study was a collaboration between scientists at Oxford and Reading Universities, the Pirbright Institute, and the UK’s national synchrotron facility, the Diamond Light Source near Oxford. The work is principally funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK (Defra) and the Wellcome Trust.
“This important work has been a direct result of the additional funding that was provided as a result of the 2001 outbreak to research this highly contagious disease. Using our detailed knowledge of the immune responses to FMDV in cattle we were able to define the characteristics that needed to be incorporated into the new vaccine platform to induce protection.”
Clinical trials of the synthetic shell based vaccine on cattle carried out by Dr Charleston and his team have shown it is as effective as current vaccines. Whilst a commercial product is still several years away the team hopes that the technology can be transferred as quickly as possible to make it available to a global market.
Professor Stuart says; “Instead of using infectious virus as the basis for the vaccine, which is the main traditional method of vaccine development, the team using a methodology developed by Professor Ian Jones from the University of Reading synthetically created empty protein shells to imitate the protein coat that forms the strong outer layer of the virus.”
Professor David Stuart, explains, “What we have achieved here is close to the holy grail of foot-and-mouth vaccines. Unlike the traditional vaccines, there is no chance that the empty shell vaccine could revert to an infectious form. This work will have a broad and enduring impact on vaccine development, and the technology should be transferable to other viruses from the same family, such as poliovirus and hand foot and mouth disease, a human virus which is currently endemic in South-East Asia.”
Researchers say, this same approach could in future be used to make empty shell vaccines against related viruses such as polio and hand-foot-and-mouth, a human disease that mainly affects infants and children.
New Foot and Mouth Vaccine Developed
Scientists have developed a new vaccine for foot and mouth disease, which they believe is safer, less fragile and easier to transport. Professor David Stuart, professor of structural biology at the University of Oxford and life science director at Diamond Light Source, explains the benefits of the vaccine in dealing with a disease that is still rampant in many parts of the world
Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Production
The video shows how culture cells are used to produce synthetic empty protein shells which are almost identical to those in the FMDV capsid. However, because there is no actual viral RNA present there is no risk of creating infective viruses with the advantage that production can take place in non-high containment facilities. The edges of the sub-units forming the protein shells are cross-linked with each other to stabilise the empty shell – this ensures that the vaccine will produce a strong immune response in the vaccinated animal and also means that the vaccine does not require specialised cold storage. The video ends with the release from the culture cell of vast numbers of new empty protein shells which are harvested to produce the vaccine.