“VLPs are one of the most promising candidates for protecting humans against Ebola and
Traditionally vaccines against viral diseases have consisted of whole viruses, either the one that causes the disease in a weakened or dead state (like the polio vaccine) or a genetically similar virus that does not usually cause disease but elicits a protective immune response. The problem with this approach is there is the risk, however small, of viral reactivation and infection.
“Since the VLP vaccine does not use a whole virus, there is no chance of infection,” says Warfield, who notes that some VLP-based vaccines, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, are already on the market.
To create the vaccine, Warfield and her colleagues infected insect cells with specially engineered baculoviruses. The infected cells then produced VLPs for either
“Following challenge with Ebola or
Additionally, Warfield discovered that vaccination with one strain of Marburg VLP produced protection against 3 different strains of the virus, which is surprising. Subunit vaccines (in which only part of the virus is used) had previously not been thought to confer broad-based immunity.
Researchers are currently working on scaling up the production process and hope to begin clinical trials in humans in a few years.
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