Self-boosting vaccine will make booster shots obsolete

Histopathology of cytomegalovirus infection in the human kidney.

Cytomegalovirus of the type that could be used in self-boosting vaccines. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Wikipedia)

Vaccines are triumphant products of decades of medical research, designed to inoculate us worker drones against disease and keep profits flowing. Traditionally, most vaccinations have to be repeated via booster shots over time to maintain their effectiveness. Today, however, researchers may have come across a formula for safe, self-boosting vaccine makes extra trips to the medical clinic – and work hours lost to illness – a thing of the past.

Self-boosting vaccine steps up when memory fails

The way traditional immunity works is that our cells continue to recognize past pathogens via “memory” cells. When old unwanted guests reappear, a rapid assault can be mobilized. However, some pathogens manage to slip in under the radar initially, causing the first memory to be unclear or incomplete. Sporadic exposure becomes necessary in order for immunity against such diseases to be maintained.

In theory, that’s what self-boosting vaccine would do, without the requirement of periodic reapplication. A recent study suggests that self-boosting vaccine would continually expose the body to the necessary proteins with just a single dose. Of course, this means that the patient would be carrying a lifelong viral infection. That’s something many people already have, though, particularly where such things as the herpes virus and cytomegalovirus are concerned. Active infections are cleared by the immune system, but bits and pieces of the virus remain in hiding.

The self-boosting vaccine of a lifetime

Research suggests that it is possible to engineer proteins into multiple viruses due to the large large genome viruses tend to have. A single self-boosting vaccine would then provide life-long exposure to all kinds of diseases. This is largely considered a positive, but for some, serious complications can occur, particularly in the young and those with immunodeficiency. Both cytomegalovirus and herpes can cause serious complications. Pairing that with the general reservations many people have with voluntarily infecting themselves with the disease makes self-boosting vaccine something of a tough sell in spite of the benefits, notes Ars Technica. “Attenuated versions” of viruses that bear a lesser risk of re-activating and producing symptoms are what researchers are attempting to replicate, but that is no small task, as the reasons a virus would reactivate are not fully understood.

Sources

Ars Technica

Cryptogon

“Self-Boosting Vaccines and Their Implications for Herd Immunity” 

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