Vaccines are one of the most successful public health interventions we’ve developed—a simple injection can lead to a life-long immunity to disease-causing agents. But not every vaccine is so successful; for a number of agents, regular booster shots are needed to prevent immunity from fading. But researchers are starting to look into a possible route around this problem: a self-boosting vaccine. The challenge will be making one that’s safe and acceptable to the public.
A paper published in PNAS earlier this week made me aware that researchers are now looking at ways to avoid the requirement for extra shots. A self-boosting vaccine would, with a single dose, give people regular re-exposure to the proteins of dangerous infectious agents possibly handling several risks with a single dose. The downside? The method would involve giving the vaccine’s recipients a lifelong viral infection. Ars Technica: http://goo.gl/YQ5Ni
PNAS: Self-boosting vaccines and their implications for herd immunity: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/11/14/1209683109