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New Vaccine Close to 'Holy Grail' For Global Disease Control

28 March 2013

UK - A new synthetic vaccination could signal a new era in vaccine development.

Scientists have developed an entirely synthetic foot-and-mouth disease vaccine that triggers response through minute protein shells.

According to its developers, the development is close to being ‘the holy grail’ of vaccines as it means that treatments can be developed without relying on the growth of live infectious virus. This will help reduce FMD spreading to FMD free areas and could also alter how viruses from the same family are fought- like polio. 

These latest developments are a product of collaborative research between Professor David Stuart, University of Oxford, and Dr Bryan Charleston, Head of Livestock Viral Diseases Programme at The Pirbright Institute.  

The new methodology totally reduces the possibility of an empty shell vaccine dangerously returning to an infectious form.

“What we have achieved here is close to the holy grail of foot-and-mouth vaccines. Unlike the traditional vaccines, there is no chance that the empty shell vaccine could revert to an infectious form,” said Professor Stuart.

“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,”

Professor Stuart explained that the new methodology comes from the work of Professor Ian Jones at the University of Reading.

This work was added to through use of equipment at Oxford University that allowed the team to visualise the outer protein coat of the virus a billion times smaller than a pinhead allowing atom by atom design.

Additionally, vaccine storage could become easier which will aid production and reduce costs as cold storage chains should no longer be necessary.

Nigel Gibbens, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer said: “This vaccine is a major breakthrough that has the potential to be an invaluable new weapon in the fight to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease.”

“Once available, vaccines of this type would have clear advantages over current technology as a possible option to help control the disease should we ever have another FMD outbreak.”

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willets, congratulated staff at The Pirbright Institute and Oxford and Reading Universities, proclaiming the news as a 'great achievement'. 

The work was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK (Defra) and the Wellcome Trust.

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms


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