Scientists from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences use radiation to render bacteria non-infectious while preserving their immunogenic properties. They hope the technique can be used to make potentially dangerous bacteria into life-saving vaccines.
The team from USU, in collaboration with colleagues from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, successfully tested a radiated vaccine in mice against drug-resistant Staphlylococcus aureus. The results of the study were recently published in the July edition of the journal Cell Host and Microbe.
The new technique holds promise in certain cases, although live vaccines are believed to provide better immune protection than those that have been irradiated. Live vaccines are simply not an option in dealing with some untreatable illnesses because of they carry a risk of infection. Irradiated vaccines do not because the radiation destroys the pathogen’s genome.
The USU team also believes irradiated vaccines could be especially helpful in the developing world, where cold storage for a live vaccine is often limited.
The development of the new procedure was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the intramural program of the U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.