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Scientist's hand holding vaccine vial

Vaccinations – A Success Story


The perpetual struggle between viruses and vaccines is one of the oldest stories in the field of medicine. 1500 BCE marked the beginning of the fight against smallpox in China as doctors ground pieces of the crust of smallpox lesions from infected people and administered the powder through the nose. In Asia and Europe, people transferred the contents of smallpox pustules to healthy people in order to immunize them.

This article appeared first in BioNews, Eppendorf’s application-oriented customer magazine since 1993.

Over the past few decades, a number of vaccine technologies have been developed which support us in our battle against viruses. Traditional inactivated vaccines boast a proven track record for many diseases. While these vaccines still require the cultivation of the pathogen, all the vaccines of the newer generation, e.g. recombinant protein and nucleic acid vaccines, need the genetic sequence of the pathogen. These groundbreaking platforms can considerably accelerate the processes involved in development and manufacture, as well as open up a new potential for a broad spectrum of indications at a speed never seen before.

Inactivated vaccines (e.g. against hepatitis A, rabies, polio) still contain the entire repertoire of immunogenic compounds of the original pathogen. Correct and thorough inactivation is imperative in order to prevent reactivation and replication of the virus inside the host. Protein-subunit vaccines (e.g. influenza, hepatitis B and C) have been a tried-and-tested strategy, and to this day, they represent a core element of pandemic management.

mRNA technology
Nucleic acid-based vaccines consisting of mRNA or plasmid DNA contain the blueprint for viral antigen components, and following injection, they lead to the production of pathogen-specific antigens. The groundbreaking technology of mRNA vaccines experienced its breakthrough with SARS-CoV-2, and it shows potential in many novel clinical areas, including HIV, cancer, shingles, influenza, cardiovascular applications, and Zika.

Our battle against viruses will never be over, but thanks to modern vaccine technologies, we now have more tools at our disposal with which to combat them and protect the health of the global population.

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