Cardiff Medical Team Have Created a Prototype Flu Vaccine Tablet

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Wednesday 14th March 2018

A team of scientists at Cardiff University has managed to create a prototype flu vaccine that can be taken orally, potentially opening the door for pill-based vaccines that would open the door for better and more stable vaccination in developing countries.

Current lab testing shows positive results however the study, published in JCI, the Journal of Clinical Investigation does note that human testing for oral vaccines is several years away.

The body’s natural immune system works by creating antibodies for a virus or bacteria that has infected the body, creating a response that can be used to destroy other versions of the virus. This is the reason why you only get some illnesses once.

Typically vaccines or inoculations are primarily injections that add a safe form of a virus into the bloodstream, which then creates a response from the immune system without any of the risk of actual illness, but at the same time creating the antibodies and defences against the virus were it to strike for real.

The issue is that biological vaccines need to be stored at a cold temperature, either close to or below freezing in order to keep the constituent ingredients stable, which means that in a country with less reliable electricity, vaccines can end up being wasted due to not being in the right condition to be delivered to people.

The solution found at Cardiff University was to create man-made peptides, molecules that mimic the characteristics of real viruses. The key difference is that they cannot be digested, unlike real viral peptides, which means that a vaccine made with an artificial peptide could travel beyond the stomach. When tested for the new influenze-A virus, it was shown to be as effective in tests on laboratory mice.

Oral vaccines have been something of a major goal for immunisation for a long time, as for various reasons standard injection viruses are not always usable and would be in almost all cases less practical than oral vaccination would be. There are people who are afraid of needles for example, for whom an oral vaccination would be far more useful.

A more major and vital side effect is that oral vaccines would be much smaller, much easier to store and do not require the same near-frozen conditions that injectable vaccinations, as well as the current oral vaccines available such as Polio do. This means the potential for distribution of vaccines in developing countries which lack the storage conditions required for vaccine distribution, as well as the potential to effectively stockpile vaccines, which could enable more people to be protected from potentially fatal illnesses.

There are caveats however, the biggest one being simply that the research behind it is not even close to complete yet, with the belief being it will be several years before immunisation pills will be rolled out. With that comes the vaccine infrastructure, and whether it will be faster or slower to manufacture than current vaccines, which could be very important for rapidly changing widespread illnesses such as seasonal flu.

In any respect, this is a discovery that could change how we protect ourselves from bacterial and viral diseases forever.