Revolutionizing the archaic vaccine system.
Vaccines have recently made headlines due to the viral web video of Desiree Jennings, who, after receiving a flu vaccine, exhibited severe symptoms of severe dystonia, a neurological disorder characterized by twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures. Though the authenticity of Jennings’ reaction has been disputed, it should nevertheless raise concerns regarding the nature of our present vaccination system. That a vaccine – considered at this point in our medical progress to be infallible and innocuous – could induce such a strong, adverse side effect indicates an outdated defense against disease, indeed in need of treatment itself. One such treatment may be found in nanoviricides, a rapidly developing area of pharmaceutical nanotechnology. They present many new advantages and innovations that the current vaccine system cannot compete with.
Society’s attachment to the concept of a failsafe vaccine has deep historical roots. By the late 18th century, the world was celebrating the development and success of vaccines, initially designed for incredibly infectious diseases such as smallpox and cholera.1 The ability to keep several of the most hazardous diseases known to man at bay promoted the idea of wide-spread vaccination and increased capital for research and development in the western world. Although the development of vaccines has made exceptional progress since then, the process has been left largely unquestioned, despite its complicated and expensive methods. Indeed, vaccines are accepted as an unfailing weapon against disease and many people are reluctant to accept the possibility that vaccinations may not be risk-free. Similarly, many remain hesitant to implement new and more effective systems of vaccination to combat evolving and highly sophisticated diseases. This mindset must change if humanity is to be as protected as it feels.
The Mechanics of Vaccines
“A person only gains immunity to the disease when infected.Vaccines are complementary, weakened or killed versions of viruses responsible for infection. When injected, vaccines induce and train the body to produce antibodies to counteract the pathogen specific to a virus; therefore, when a person falls ill with the virus, the body will respond by producing antibodies that “tag” the relevant pathogen. This process triggers the immune system to release white blood cells that recognize this tag. Ultimately, a person only gains immunity to the disease when infected, so vaccination serves as an adaptation. It allows the body to stockpile white blood cells specific to certain viruses, rendering it prepared for the next time the virus attacks.
Current Vaccine Production
The current procedure for vaccine production is inherently costly; both in terms of time and capital, and does not always produce iron-clad protection without multiple doses. Currently, vaccines involve incubation in animal tissue (most commonly chicken eggs), which can lead to unintentional contamination with unknown animal viruses and other pathogens, which in turn leads to a more severe diseases involving a bit more than catching the flu. Furthermore, the dependence on chickens renders vaccines vulnerable and archaic. The complete process can take from six to nine months, and each egg typically produces one to three doses of a vaccine; thus, the process relies on having access to millions of eggs.2 If the next pandemic is caused by a virus that kills birds, such as the H5N1 avian flu virus that emerged in 1997 in Hong Kong and reemerged in 2003, then any solution dependent on chickens will be useless.2 Moreover, the current vaccine system, already expensive, is made more costly because sometimes several injections of the vaccine are required to achieve long lasting immunity. In the case of mutating and rapidly evolving diseases, this form of production creates vaccines for yesterday’s patient.
The H1N1 pandemic of 2009 is a prime example: the disease claimed approximately 13,000 American lives, including a disproportionate number of children, when compared with seasonal influenza outbreaks.3 This particular pandemic demonstrated the weaknesses of the system and its ability to respond to the crisis, specifically being that an appropriate vaccine was not manufactured, tested, and distributed fast enough to reach the millions who needed it.3 Given that some of these factors are not controllable, society must look for viable alternatives to the vaccination system. In particular, we must pay special attention to vaccines that can mutate along with viruses on a molecular level. The current vaccine system targets a broader version of a disease, in this example, the flu. As a result, it cannot target nor destroy a virus when mutation causes specific changes. This requires the US to be constantly revising and producing new vaccines, which slows the distribution. One of our most promising options lies in employing the science and engineering of nanotechnology.
The New Alternatives: Nanoviricides
Nanotechnology is the study and manipulation of matter at the molecular, or nanometer, scale.4 A nanoviricide, unlike current vaccines, is a manmade molecule engineered to replace the antibody in the immune system. The nanoviricide works similarly to the antibody, for both selectively tag the virus when it first presents itself; however, the nanoviricide attaches to the virus particle at several sites, using a sort of cluster mechanism, giving it the ability to grasp the virus while encapsulating it and destroying it. This is possible based on the two-part design of the nanoviricide.4 The first is the nanomicelle, or the casing of the nanoviricide. This casing opens up and encapsulates the virus, and by physical and chemical forces, breaks down the virus into harmless pieces. The second feature is the receptor molecule, which is ligand mimicking, meaning that it presents the same chemical features as a normal cell, and creates several binding sites for the virus. Hence we call the nanoviricide a “multisite target,” whereas the antibody attaches at one. The nanoviricide particle recognizes multiple sites and binds to them (currently binding to as many as three different sites) for a highly effective attack. How does the virus allow the binding if it is so specific? Like the surface of a cell, the nanoviricide does not change form, tricking the virus into assuming it has attached to a vulnerable cell. The nanoviricide, disguised as an injured cell, then coats the virus particle with degenerating chemicals, which ultimately renders the virus ineffective, prompting it to disintegrate.4 The nanoviricide dismantles the virus without any immune system assistance, avoiding many of aforementioned issues with current vaccine production mechanisms.
Fundamentally, the major difference between the present vaccine system and the nanoscale one is between the naturally-produced antibody and the manmade nanoviricide. Apart from replacing the immune system, nanoviricides are additionally advantageous as they are biodegradable within the body. This means that the remnants can be recycled or released safely through the blood stream and other body systems.5 Biodegradability results from using naturally occurring polymers to build the nanomicelle.5 Vaccines and nanoviricides differ still further in their applications. Nanoviricides do not necessarily require injection; they can also be topically applied or administered in the form of eye-drops, reducing discomfort and perhaps increasing the effectiveness of the vaccine. That nanoviricides are engineered by man enables rapid, targeted drug development against emerging viruses. It is possible, according to current research, to develop a research drug against a new life threatening viral disease within 3-6 weeks after the infection is found, compared to the years needed to come up with a vaccine from chicken eggs. Other advantages include the low cost of drug development, manufacturing and distribution.
The Future of Nanoviricides
“Many of the doctors who were working to treat those who were infected also contracted the disease.A key obstacle to the development of more efficacious vaccines, and one that nanoviricide researchers hope to overcome, is the inadvertent infection of those who are helping to treat a pandemic. During the 2003 SARs outbreak, many of the doctors who were working to treat those who were infected also contracted the disease. This collateral damage is one of the largest challenges the current vaccine system faces. As more healthcare workers become infected, the faster the disease spreads and the slower it is eliminated. Nanoviricide developers hope to remove this problem through Pre-exposure prophylaxis. This is a procedure in which the healthcare workers can be exposed, and thus build up an immunity to the disease, before they begin to work with patients. Using a specially engineered nanoviricide, an individual is exposed to the disease for 7-28 days, after which the virus exits the body. Although this would be incredibly expensive to do for the entire population, the fact that those helping to fight the disease could gain immunity to it would create an undeniable advantage. One nanoviricide that is currently being developed is FluCide, which increases the immunity to different strains of influenza.
The effectiveness of nanoviricides has been tested on certain viral diseases, notably conjunctivitis of the eye in rabbits, by Party, a major pharmaceutical company.6 Normally, symptoms of this virus last for a couple of weeks in rabbits, but when the nanoviricide EKCCide was used, a complete cure was achieved in 2.5 days.7 Broad-spectrum nanoviricides have been created that can bind to possibly as many as 90-95% of known viruses, and nanoviricides are being made for all influenzas (FluCide), HIV/AIDS, all viral eye infections, and genital herpes and cold sores.5
As a nation that has always prided itself on being at the forefront of progress, the reality is that the United States has reached a point of stagnation regarding the development of the current vaccine system. The U.S. is losing ground and needs to act quickly in the face of growing viral diseases and unfortunately, the present vaccine system doesn’t allow for this. With more research and development, the United States can support and look forward to the development of better, safer vaccines that allow us to battle disease on its own terms. Nanoviricides present a compelling war plan.
We would like to thank the CEO of NanoViricides, Eugene Seymour, for kindly agreeing to provide input and insight on this article.
1Riedel, Stefan. “Edward Jenner and the History of Smallpox and Vaccination.” PubMed. Baylor University Medical Center, 2005. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1200696/>.
2Stein, Rob. “Vaccine System Remains Antiquated.” The Washington Post: National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines – The Washington Post. Washington Post, 24 Nov. 2009. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/23/AR2009112302277.html>.
3Doglin, Elie. “Spoonful of Medicine: With Egg on Its Face, US Looks to Abandon Egg-based Vaccine Manufacturing.” Nature.com Blogs: Home. Nature.com, 20 Aug. 2010. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <http://blogs.nature.com/nm/spoonful/2010/08/with_egg_on_its_face_us_looks.html>.
4“Antiviral Therapeutics – Technologies, Markets and Companies.” Welcome to NanoViricides, Inc.Jain PharmaBiotech, 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. <http://www.nanoviricides.com/Antiviral_Therapeutics_technologies_markets_and_companies_January_2008.pdf>.
5Shaw, Gwyneth K. “Inventor Has Big Idea, New Cash | New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent – It’s Your Town. Read All About It. New Haven Independent, 8 Feb. 2011. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/nanoviricides_tries_to_wrap_up_diseases/id_33450>.
6“NanoViricides, Inc. Eye Drug Testing Has Begun.” Medical News Today: Health News. Medical News Today, 17 June 2009. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/154133.php>.
7 “White Conjunctiva Restored by Nanoviricide Drug.” Welcome to NanoViricides, Inc.NanoViricides, Inc, 2010. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <http://www.nanoviricides.com/action_small_EKC_2008-06-09.html>.