Thursday, 28 March 2013

Absolutely vaccinating!

The standard vaccinations which we have all had the 'joy' of experiencing since the age of 2 months, contain either an inactive but live form of the pathogen or the dead empty shell of the pathogen. Our body responds to this intruder by producing lymphocytes and memory cells, combating this pathogen; then when we catch the disease later in life, we are now immune (due to the B-memory cells) and do not express any symptoms as a consequence. Although this is a safe method of vaccination, scientists at The Pirbright Institute have managed to produce a more stable and entirely synthetic alternative to live vaccines.

The vaccine is being generated for the disease foot-and-mouth, which is a devastating disease which hit the UK in 2001, and caused billions of pounds worth of damage to the economy and decreased the agricultural productivity.

A virus has a protein shell and genomic RNA which enables it to replicate inside the host and its cells. The scientists have managed to reinforce the protein shell making it stronger and hence more stable.

The main benefit of this new vaccine is its' stability which means it will be able to be kept out of the fridge for several hours, at temperatures up to 56C without thermally denaturing.  Potentially this could be a critical factor in seeing the administration of this type of vaccine to the developing nations.

Explorer Fact: Foot-and-mouth disease is a picornavirus

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