Researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) have developed nano-particles loaded with antigen protein segments that could lead to the discovery of an oral hepatitis B vaccine.
“The outcomes are positive in animal studies and if human trials are successful as well, an oral vaccine for hepatitis B could become a reality by 2021, doing away with the need for injections and booster doses,” said Dr Amit Dinda, professor of pathology at the AIIMS, who led the research.
The research was funded by the India’s Department of Biotechnology and published in the journal, Vaccine.
Studies in mice showed superior antibody response with higher antigen levels two months after a single dose. “Two months in mice is equivalent to nine to 10 years in humans,” said Dr Dinda.
India has over 40 million Hepatitis B-infected patients, second to China. Each year, 100,000 people die of liver cirrhosis and failure related to viral hepatitis B and C in India.
The hepatitis-B vaccine used now is injectable, which requires two boosters after the initially injection, first one after one month and the second booster after six months.
To create the nanoparticles that make an oral dose possible, scientists used polymer material with a detergent-like substance, loaded them with antigen protein segments and then transported them inside the body of the mouse.
“The vaccine once prepared would be safe, cost-effective and non-invasive method suitable for mass immunisation. It will greatly benefit the rural masses who often miss the doses after the first shot,” said DR Dinda.
Oral vaccines do away with the risk of infection from blood-borne infections such as hepatitis B and HIV through unsterilised needles.
“Since it is given orally, it is painless. We now have to test it on humans and if successful, it will be first oral vaccine against Hepatitis B in the world,” Dr Dinda said.