Researchers at the IAH have discovered a method for improving the efficacy in vaccines for humans and animals

Institute for Animal Health (IAH) researchers and collaborators at the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, have discovered why some vaccines are not as effective at stimulating an immune response as we would hope.

Photo: sxc/zeathielThe research was led by Dr Jayne Hope, Dr Efrain Guzman and Dr Bryan Charleston. The work is published this week in the journal Vaccine. The project is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Dr Charleston said: “We knew that sometimes even when we know a bacteria or virus well, it has been a struggle to make effective vaccines against certain diseases. We discovered that dendritic cells – a type of immune cell – are activated better by some vaccines than others.

“There are a lot of human and animal diseases that we would like better vaccines for, but until now we haven’t been able to find a good reason why, for example, the BCG vaccine against tuberculosis isn’t always effective, but the bovine herpes virus vaccine is extremely efficient at establishing long-term immunity.”

The study focused on the BCG vaccine, known to have variable efficacy, that has been used against tuberculosis in humans and animals. The discovery is also important for developing new vaccines against different diseases caused by viruses as well as bacteria.

Dendritic cells are the master regulators of immune responses to vaccination and infection, circulating through the body detecting foreign material and then stimulating immune responses.

Dr Hope said: “When we studied dendritic cells in the lab, we found that BCG vaccine, for example, is taken up by only a small number of these cells. This could provide one of the reasons why it’s not always effective. We had an idea we could improve this and other vaccines by finding a way to enhance the response of dendritic cells that are key in driving immunity.”

Dr Guzman added: “The good news is that we’ve potentially found ways to improve the efficiency of the response by targeting dendritic cells. This may be a good approach to improve the long term immunity gained by vaccination.

The next stage is to develop this method into a safe and reliable technique that can be used for vaccination of humans and animals.

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