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News

Artificial vaccines offer hope to prevent diseases

Society For General Microbiology : 07 April, 2003  (Company News)
New work on artificially constructed viruses offers the hope of effective vaccines for devastating diseases in the future, according to researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in work presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Meeting in Edinburgh.
The scientists are working on a particularly nasty disease in sheep called the bluetongue virus which causes huge economic losses worldwide, but the technique may eventually be applied to many different diseases, including ones caused by viruses which attack people.

'Bluetongue virus used to be restricted to hotter climates, where the midges which transmit it live,' says Professor Polly Roy of the London School of Tropical Medicine. 'But we now have evidence that it is spreading into previously unaffected areas such as Southern Europe, so the need for a vaccine is extremely pressing.'

The research team managed to construct artificial virus-like particles that resemble the real bluetongue virus, but do not contain any genetic material. The artificial particles were assembled inside harmless insect cells, avoiding the need to culture and modify dangerous quantities of the real virus in the laboratory. The new method also prevents the danger posed by the existing vaccine, which can revert and infect sheep with the disease it is meant to prevent.

'Using our new technique, we can match the many slightly different strains of bluetongue virus with our vaccine, offering resistance to any new outbreak,' says Professor Roy. 'Clinical trials in Marino sheep have demonstrated that vaccination with even small doses of these artificial viruses gives long lasting protection against bluetongue virus.'

The advanced technology developed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is currently being considered as the preferred option for bluetongue virus vaccination in the European Union. A safer vaccine will offer hope to poor farmers whose economic livelihood depends on sheep.
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