British scientists have developed a "holy grail" vaccine for foot-and-mouth
disease that is safer and more resilient than current vaccines, according to an
article published in journal PLOS pathogens.
At the moment, animals are given a small dose of live infectious virus to
stimulate the body's immune system into producing antibodies that recognise and
destroy the pathogen whenever it appears in the bloodstream.
Now scientists believe they can produce an entirely synthetic vaccine thanks
to atomic analysis of the virus using Britain's particle accelerator, the
Diamond Light Source, near Oxford in southern England.
Using the data, a team of scientists from Oxford and Reading Universities and
the Pirbright Institute were able to reconstruct the outside structure of the
virus, which triggers the production of antibodies.
The hollow shell contains no pathogenic RNA - the genetic material viruses
use to replicate themselves - so there is no chance of accidental infection
The scientists were also able to tweak the structure to make it stronger.
Pre-clinical trials found it to be stable at temperatures up to 56C (132
Fahrenheit) for at least two hours.
"What we have achieved here is close to the holy grail of foot-and-mouth
vaccines," said Dave Stuart, Life Sciences Director at Diamond, and MRC
Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford.
"Unlike traditional vaccines, there is no chance that the empty-shell vaccine
could revert to an infectious form."
The technology should also be transferable to other viruses from the same
family, such as poliovirus and hand-foot-and-mouth disease, a human virus
endemic in South-East Asia, he added.
Foot-and-mouth is endemic livestock in in central Africa, parts of the Middle
East and Asia.