Via the South China Morning Post, a very encouraging report, if true: Will China’s scientists’ breakthrough sound death knell for world’s deadly viruses? Excerpt and then a comment:
Chinese scientists may have found the key to creating effective vaccines for the world’s deadly viruses – by breaking two taboos in traditional vaccinology.
An experiment by a research team at Beijing’s Peking University was hailed as “revolutionary” in the field in a paper published in the latest issue of Science magazine on Friday.
The scientists broke two of the field’s taboos first by creating a vaccine using a live, fully infectious virus, and then by injecting the substance into infected animals dying of the same virus.
The animals were cured after receiving the injection, according to the paper.
This breakthrough promises to simplify the process of producing vaccines, which may help scientists develop effective vaccines or even cures for various viruses – such bird flu, Sars, Ebola and HIV – within weeks of an outbreak.
The live virus used in the vaccine used by the researchers had its genetic code tweaked to disable the viral strains’ self-replication mechanism. But it was kept fully infectious to allow the host animal cells to generate immunity.
Using live viruses in their fully infectious form was considered taboo, as viruses spread rapidly. Vaccines sold and used widely today generally contain either dead or weakened forms of viruses.
Live viruses used in vaccines approved for clinical use have typically had their physical structure altered to weaken them. But this has affected the vaccines’ effectiveness. Vaccines also do not exist for many of the world’s deadly viruses.
Zhou Demin, a professor at Peking University’s School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and the study’s lead scientist, said researchers had been facing a losing battle against viruses.
“Now we have a new weapon ... that can mow down nearly any kind of virus and their mutations. It can shift the battle,” Zhou told the South China Morning Post.
In the experiment reported in Science magazine, Zhou’s team made the vaccine using live bird flu virus.
They jabbed the vaccine into mice, guinea pigs and ferrets. The virus invaded the hosts and created havoc in cells, but they did not reproduce themselves.
It's still Thursday in North America, but I'll link to the article when it appears in the morning.