Oral vaccine relies on 'good bacteria'

Oral vaccines prove an alluring alternative to painful shots, and scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, are pioneering a new method of oral vaccination using probiotic spores--"good bacteria." The method could help boost immunity to tuberculosis and influenza, as well as prevent C. difficile.

The vaccines use bacterium Bacillus subtilis, which is normally found in the gut. These bacteria can last millions of years before germinating under the appropriate conditions, a factor that intrigued scientists because the vaccines would be very stable and not need refrigeration. The spores act as ideal vessels to carry antigens and promote immune response, lead scientist professor Simon Cutting said.

"Bacillus-based vaccines offer distinct advantages as unlike other approaches, oral delivery can cause a more specific immune response in the gastrointestinal tract to fully eliminate C. difficile," Cutting said.

Bacillus spores can be delivered via a nasal spray, or as an oral liquid or capsule. They can also do their job via a small, soluble film placed under the tongue.

Cutting received a private investment to form a company, Holloway Immunology, to develop the bacillus vaccine technology and three lead vaccine candidates against tuberculosis, C. difficile infection and flu.

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