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DNA-vaccine against “Respiratory Syncytial -Virus”

For babies, the elderly or people with pre-existing conditions, what is normally a harmless cold virus can turn out to be very serious. So far there has been no vaccine protection available against this. Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB) scientists are now examining a new vaccination strategy: instead of using inactive viruses or virus components, they use DNA to arm the patient’s immune system to fight the illness.

The Respiratory Syncytial-Virus (RSV) usually only causes mild symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing and bronchitis. But in the patient group mentioned above it can lead to severe respiratory disease or pneumonia and so far there has been no approved vaccine. RUB researchers with Dr. Thomas Grunwald are breaking new ground in their search for an effective vaccine.

Some proteins which are found on the surface of viral infection agents are particularly interesting for the researchers, as they can be attacked by the immune system. An infection can usually be avoided if these surface proteins are destroyed or bound by neutralizing antibodies.

Quick and cheap to manufacture, simple to store

So the researchers are concentrating on just such a surface protein, the RSV-F-Protein. In the laboratory they examined and optimised the appropriate gene sequence. After introducing this optimized DNA sequence into the cell culture with human cells there was an unusually high expression of the SV-F-protein – 5000 times more RSV-F was produced than with the original viral sequence. In animal trials the vaccine proved to be successful as well. Now the researchers are testing new ways of getting the gene information into the patient’s body. Compared to previous vaccines the DNA vaccine also has other advantages: DNA vaccines can be produced cheaply and quickly, they are safe – the DNA stays in one cell and does not spread throughout the body – and they can be stored easily too.

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