Oral Vaccines Can Protect People From Deadly Viruses

  • Researchers develop a new technique that might lead to an optimal needleless Hepatitis B vaccine. 
  • It is cheaper and eliminates the requirement of sterilizing needles and possible side effects like infection and swelling. 

Viral infections like Hepatitis B can cause both acute and chronic disease. It’s transmitted via contact with blood or other body fluids of an infected person. According to the World Health Organization, more than 256 million people are living with Hepatitis B. This infection caused about 887,000 deaths worldwide in 2015.

The infection can be prevented by existing vaccines but since their storage requires high cost and stable environmental conditions, many patients in developing countries do not receive vaccination against this deadly virus.

Thus, scientists have been trying to develop a powdered form or a drop of oral vaccines that are cheaper and easier-to-manage than injections. Recently, an international research team was able to develop a new method that might lead to an optimal needleless Hepatitis B vaccine.

3D Visualisation

To study the behavior of vaccines within a specific type of encapsulation, researchers utilized a technology frequently used in solid state physics. This provided them crucial data that would not otherwise have been possible to achieve.

The most difficult task of developing a needleless vaccine is to enclose it in a substance that can endure rough conditions of the human digestive system. It’s important to keep the drug safe until it reaches the target location in the body.

It has long been known that silica-material SBA-15 can encapsulate the Hepatitis B vaccine, but why this encapsulated form of vaccines does not work effectively still remains a mystery.

Reference: Nature | DOI:10.1038/s41598-019-42645-5 | Niels Bohr Institute

The research team generated 3D images of the inside of the silica capsule, using a special method that merges neutron imaging and X-ray. This enabled them to closely observe the vaccine behavior within the silica at micrometer scales. They found that vaccine forms a cluster inside the silica, which makes it less effective.

oral vaccines protect from virusesX-ray of silica particle | Top image shows the particle’s surface whereas bottom image represents the particle as transparent with a vaccine inside (shown in red) | Courtesy of researchers 

They have figure out a way to effectively put the vaccine in the SBA-15 silica so that it works best in the body. This new technique can greatly help in the understanding of clinical studies and advance new formulations.

Why Oral Vaccine?

The needleless vaccine is particularly promising for developing countries. Not only it eliminates the little discomfort caused by injections, but also the requirement of sterilizing needles and possible side effects like infection and swelling.

Unlike current vaccines, this kind of vaccine doesn’t need refrigeration. Thus, vaccines’ administration will be eased and costs will be reduced.

Read: New Drug Capsule Could Deliver Insulin And Replace Injections

Moreover, the 3D technology can be used to build needleless vaccines for other types of diseases. The objective of this study is to develop a six-in-one oral vaccine against Hib, Hepatitis B, whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, and polio. The development of vaccines against tetanus and diphtheria is already under process.
Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is an experienced science and technology journalist interested in machines, AI, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from Indraprastha University. To find out what his latest project is, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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