A simple and cheap way of storing vaccines could revolutionise immunisation in the world’s poorest countries.By doing away with the need for fridges and freezers to store vaccines, the British technology could be a crucial breakthrough in the developing world, where millions die from infectious diseases every year. The new method of preserving vaccines, developed by Scientists at Oxford University and Nova Bio-Pharma
Technologies, is very similar to the process used to make sugared fruit peel. The sugared vaccines can be kept for months at a time, even at tropical temperatures. The discovery could significantly help efforts to immunise more children in developing countries, particularly in rural Africa, with its hot climate, researchers said, writing in the journal, Science Translational Medicine.Keeping vaccines cool, to stop them deteriorating, is often hard and unpredictable in developing countries where fridges, clinics and an electricity supply cannot be taken for granted.
In the research, published on Wednesday, he scientists describe how they managed to keep vaccines stable for up to six months at 45C. "Currently vaccines need to be stored in a fridge or freezer," says lead author Matt Cottingham, of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford. "That means you need a clinic with a nurse, a fridge and an electricity supply, and refrigeration lorries for distribution." Another member of the research team, Dr Matt Cottingham, said: "Without the need for refrigeration, you could even picture someone with a backpack taking vaccine doses on a bike into remote villages." The researchers mixed the vaccines with two types of sugar, sucrose and another sugar called trehalose, which is known for its preservative properties, before slowly drying them on a filter paper. This preserved the jabs, which were then easily reactivated when needed for injection. "If we could convert all the standard vaccines to a solution like this,” said lead investigator, Professor Adrian Hill. “It would mean they're cheaper to deliver, because they'd survive at room temperature - and so there'd be scope to vaccinate more children.
"The technology is simple and extremely cheap - and there are no more scientific hurdles to overcome."Our tests were pretty tough as we used live viruses. So we feel that having stabilised those more fragile vaccines, this method should work for other vaccines containing dead protein."It's now just a matter of developing the technique, trying it out in Africa and seeing if it can be made on an industrial basis. This could happen within five years."
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children