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Scientists develop safer foot and mouth vaccines

By Sola Ogundipe

British scientists have developed a new vaccine against foot-and-mouth disease that is safer and easier to manufacture. This is an advance  expected to greatly increase production capacity and reduce costs.

The technology behind the livestock product might also be applied to make improved human vaccines to protect against similar viruses, including polio.

Scientists are excited about the new vaccine which does not require a live virus in its production.

David Stuart, a professor of biology at the University of Oxford, who led the research, notes that in contrast to standard livestock vaccines, the new product is made from synthetic empty protein shells containing no infectious viral genomes.

A report scientists in the journal PLOS Pathogens, hints that the vaccine can be produced without expensive biosecurity and does not need to be kept refrigerated.

“One of the big advantages is that since it is not derived from live virus, the production facility requires no special containment,” Stuart said.

“One could imagine local plants being set up in large parts of the world where foot and mouth is endemic and where it still remains a huge problem.”

Worldwide, between three and four billion doses are administered every year but there are shortages in many parts of Asia and Africa where the disease is a serious problem.

Current standard vaccines are based on a 50-year-old technology, although U.S. biotech company GenVec last year won U.S. approval for a new one.

The purely synthetic British vaccine has so far been tested in small-scale cattle trials and found to be effective. Lager tests are in the pipeline while discussion on the vaccine’s commercial development is on, but it may be too early to give an
indication of how much the vaccine would cost.

The 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.


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