Oral vaccines use 'good bacteria' for delivery

Oral vaccines are a hot area, and researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London, are using spores of "good bacteria" to carry drugs into the gut and improve the immune response, all in one go. The first targets for the research so far are vaccines for tuberculosis and influenza, and for Clostridium difficile, which causes diarrhea.

The vaccines use spores of Bacillus subtilis, normally found in the human gut. These spores can survive for millions of years until they find the right conditions to germinate, and therefore the vaccines would be very stable and would not need refrigerating. They can carry antigens against targets and can be delivered either as a nasal spray or by mouth, as a liquid, capsule, or a film that melts under the tongue.

There is currently no vaccine against C. difficile, which can be picked up during hospital stays and causes around 50,000 infections and 4,000 deaths per year in the U.K., mostly in elderly patients. Oral vaccines can trigger a specific immune response in the gut, which could help to eliminate the bacterial infection. Oral vaccines are also easy and cheap to administer, and the people administering the vaccines do not need specialist training, which is an advantage in remote locations and in the developing world. Oral vaccines also cut the pain of a jab, help the needle-phobic, and are easier for small children and babies.

Lead scientist professor Simon Cutting of Royal Holloway has received private seed investment to form a company, Holloway Immunology, to develop the bacillus vaccine technology as well as three lead vaccines against tuberculosis, C. difficile infection and flu. The company is looking for investors.

- read the press release