Making safer and better shots

Vaccines have an excellent safety record and have made huge advances in reducing deaths and disabilities caused by infectious diseases worldwide, both in developed and developing countries. However, there are still small safety risks with some live vaccines, and researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) have published a new method in Nature Medicine that could make vaccines even safer, and more effective as well.

One of the greatest vaccine success stories is the near-eradication of wild-type polio by use of the oral polio vaccine. However, the polio vaccine does have a small risk of causing vaccine-derived polio because it is made using live viruses.

"Most vaccines have an outstanding safety record," explained the research paper's author Mark Slifka. "It is important to keep in mind that no medical achievement has saved more lives than the simple act of vaccination. However, for many diseases, we have struggled to develop an effective vaccine. In other cases, vaccines may be protective, but come with rare but serious side effects."

The team used a simple solution of hydrogen peroxide to inactivate the viruses, and were the first group to use this approach. They created inactivated vaccines against West Nile virus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (a relative of Lassa fever virus) and vaccinia virus, and all three triggered protective vaccine-induced immunity.

Slifka and colleagues have founded an Oregon-based biotech company, Najít Technologies, and plan to develop the technology, known as HydroVAX, and create vaccines for developed and developing countries.

- read the press release