New polio vaccine strategy tested at Antwerp University

Summary

The university is looking for volunteers for the safety and effectiveness trial of a new vaccine formulation

Beating polio

Tests on a new form of polio vaccine are about to begin at Antwerp University. If successful, they will bring us closer to the worldwide eradication of the disease.

While polio has been eliminated in many countries, the disease persists in others because of shortcomings in the vaccines available. The present injectable vaccine is good at protecting individuals from the disease, but is less effective at preventing the polio virus from spreading from person to person.

The drinkable vaccine is more effective at preventing the virus from spreading, but in rare cases it can actually cause the disease it is designed to prevent. This risk is why the oral vaccine is no longer used in the EU.

For the complete eradication of polio we need both a safe oral vaccine and a more effective injectable vaccine. The Centre for Vaccination Evaluation at Antwerp University has been applying itself to both problems, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Researchers will administer the existing vaccine together with a bacterial toxin that should boost its ability to stop the virus from passing from person to person

In 2017 it carried out a trial of two new oral vaccines in a purpose-built quarantine facility, dubbed Poliopolis. “Those studies were very successful,” said Pierre Van Damme, the centre’s director. “They brought polio eradication one step closer, but we’re not quite there yet.”

These oral vaccines are now being tested further, so the Antwerp researchers are turning their attention to injectable vaccines. Their idea is to administer the existing vaccine together with a bacterial toxin that should boost its ability to stop the virus from passing from person to person.

“We are investigating the safety and effectiveness of this new injectable polio vaccine in healthy adults who have already received a basic vaccination,” Van Damme explained.

The trial is expected to begin in March and is still seeking people to take part. This time, however, there is no need for quarantine. Details, in Dutch, are on the centre’s website.

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