British researchers have developed a new method for engineering a synthetic foot-and-mouth vaccine which doesn't rely on using a live virus, the BBC reports. The collaborative research involved researchers at the Pirbright Institute and the Universities of Oxford and Reading, and was published in PLoS Pathogens.
The researchers report that foot-and-mouth disease remains a major plague of livestock, and current inactivated virus vaccines require expensive facilities for high levels of containment and refrigeration. The new method described in the research uses just the capsid – the outer shell – with no inclusion of genetic material that enables the virus to cause an infection. The research breakthrough was made possible from the ability to visualise the FMD virus using high-intensity pinpoint light beams generated by the Diamond Light Synchrotron.
“What we have achieved here is close to the holy grail of foot-and-mouth vaccines. Unlike traditional vaccines, there is no chance that the empty shell vaccine could revert to an infectious form,” said Dave Stuart, Life Sciences Director at Diamond, and MRC Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford in an article on the BBC website. “This work will have a broad and enduring impact on vaccine development, and the technology should be transferable to other viruses from the same family, such as poliovirus and hand-foot-and-mouth disease, a human virus which is currently endemic in South-East Asia.”
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