Research makes Oral Vaccine Administration a Possibility

Physicists have always strived hard to understand the world that we inhabit. A recent study by physicists regarding the encapsulated form of a vaccine at the University of Copenhagen has opened up new avenues for the virologists and the field of medical science. Orally administrable vaccines could now replace injectables entirely.

Millions of lives are lost each year in countries where vaccines are not available. If, somehow, the vaccines are available there isn’t enough infrastructure available to keep them at the required temperature and conditions. Due to the strict requirements regarding storage and handling liquid vaccines are more expensive and less safe. Their oral counterparts are more cost effective and safer.

Researchers have strived to find ways to make liquid vaccines into powdered or solid form but the solid form made them ineffective and useless. Through the recent study, the physicists at the University of Copenhagen have had a breakthrough in the field. they have devised a roadmap for improving vaccine drops through the application of nanophysics principles.

Hepatitis B is rampant in developing countries and millions fall victim to it. The high cost of storage and strict requirements regarding storage conditions has hampered the availability of vaccines in these regions. Orally administrable hepatitis B vaccines were not available either.

A project was taken up teams from the University of Copenhagen, University of São Paulo together and the Butantan Institute has come up with a method that will enable the pharmaceutical companies to mass produce optimal orally administrable Hepatitis B vaccine.

An associate professor from the Neils Bohr Institute, HeloisaBordallo, was available to comment on the development. He said, “We have used a technology commonly used in solid-state physics to explore how the vaccine behaves within a particular type of encapsulation.

This has yielded crucial information that would not otherwise have been achievable. When we scientists venture beyond our comfort zone and deploy each other’s knowledge across disciplines, entirely new possibilities can emerge,”. Heloisa also co-wrote the corresponding research paper that got published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The greatest problem in making any medicine orally administrable as compared to injectable is that it was to go through the many destructive phases of our digestive system. Pharmaceuticals have been unsuccessful in making sure it safely reaches the target spot.

The Danish research team’s collaborative partners from Butantan already had the knowledge that SBA-15, a silica material, is the best form of encapsulation for a hepatitis B vaccine. The people at Butantan, Brazil did not quite understand as to why the encapsulated vaccine was often ineffective.

Understanding the makeup was what the team at Neils Bohr excelled at. By employing an intricate process that combined neutron imaging and X-ray imaging techniques they produced a three-dimensional model of the internal makeup of SBA-15 silica.

It is notable that the technique already existed in nanophysics but its use to study the internal structure of capsules was a first. It has proven to be fruitful as the imagery has allowed the researchers to study the structure in detail. They concluded that the vaccine tends to clump when inside the capsule which makes it ineffective at times

“Now we know what makes the vaccine less effective, and how to optimize it. We know exactly how much vaccine should be put in the silica capsule for it to work best in the body and the clinical trials can be better interpreted,” said HeloisaBordallo.

The co-author of the research paper, Martin K. Rasmussen, asserted that the developing nations would benefit the most from the breakthrough. He said, “Getting rid of needles being poked into the arms of little children is an advantage in and of itself.

It also eliminates any need to sterilize needles and possible side effects such as swelling and infection. And, unlike the vaccine in use today, this type of vaccine needn’t be refrigerated.

As such, costs will be reduced and the vaccine’s administration will be eased.” Martin studied at Niels Bohr Institute previously and is currently enrolled as a doctoral student at the Technical University of Denmark.

Although the research has largely revolved around the Hepatitis B vaccine the researchers say that it will enable the pharmaceutical companies to research using this technique. Using the 3D imaging mode oral vaccines against several other types of diseases can be made.

The new goal of the joint research team is to come up with a 6-in-1 orally administrable vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib and hepatitis B. A prototype is already in the works.

Adeena Tariq

Adeena's professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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