New vaccine technology shows promise in fight against mucus-based infections

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a vaccine to protect the mucosal surfaces of the body from infection, which could allow a single vaccine to protect against numerous infections.

The MIT engineers created a nanoparticle that allows for an aerosol vaccine to successfully travel through the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, coating the mucosal surfaces in those systems to prevent against infections, including influenza, respiratory viruses, cancer and sexually transmitted infections.

"This is a good example of a project where the same technology can be applied in cancer and in infectious disease," MIT professor and leader of the research team Darrell Irvine said. "It's a platform technology to deliver a vaccine of interest."

Researchers examined how mice responded to a variety of infections, both with and without a nanoparticle immunization. In one case, mice were vaccinated with nanoparticles and then exposed to the Vaccinia virus. Unvaccinated mice showed a 100 percent death rate, while vaccinated mice showed a 100 percent survival and recovery rate.

"Giving the vaccine at the mucosal surface in the nanocapsule form allowed us to completely block that systemic infection," Irvine said.

Irvine hopes to use the technology to protect against all viruses that use mucosal surfaces and breeding grounds for infection, including cancer.

The results of the study were published in the September 25 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.