New oral vaccines are being developed to increase immunity against Tuberculosis (TB) and influenza, and prevent C. difficle, which will mean leaving needles behind, according to researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London.

The new type of vaccinations were developed using probiotic spores by Professor Simon Cutting, lead researcher of the study, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway.

The professor implemented trials to analyze the biology of the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, which caught the attention of microbiologists because it has the capability of making spores that live millions of years until they germinate in proper environmental conditions.

“The mechanisms by which this process occurs have fascinated microbiologists for decades making it one of the most intensively studied bacteria. Its simple life cycle and ease of use make it an ideal laboratory subject,” said Cutting. Bacillus spores were found to be perfect for transporting antigens and boosting immune responses.

Cutting explained:

“Rather than requiring needle delivery, vaccines based on Bacillus spores can be delivered via a nasal spray, or as an oral liquid or capsule. Alternatively, they can be administered via a small soluble film placed under the tongue, in a similar way to modern breath fresheners. As spores are exceptionally stable, vaccines based on Bacillus do not require cold-chain storage alleviating a further issue with current vaccine approaches.”

In addition to being less painful than vaccines given through jabs, oral vaccines also come with certain advantages, such as being safer to administer, particularly in nations where HIV is a major concern. Also, these types of vaccines will be more cost effective to make and easier to keep fresh, lowering the risk of adverse outcomes.

Trials have been conducted, by Professor Cutting, to determine the effectiveness of Bacillus based vaccines for many different diseases, such as influenza, Tuberculosis, and tetanus. Now, he is is examining whether the vaccine can be used against Clostridium difficile, a disease extremely prevalent in the West.

C. difficile is a serious cause of diarrhea linked to antibiotics and can result in intense inflammation of the colon, or pseudomembranous colitis.

The professor said: “C. difficile, is a gastrointestinal infection that is commonly picked up following hospital stays and causes around 50,000 infections and 4,000 deaths per year in the UK, mostly in elderly patients. Currently, there is no vaccine against the disease, and although several approaches are currently undergoing clinical trials, none are expected to provide full protection, and new solutions are urgently needed.”

Bacillus based vaccines offer distinct advantages as unlike other approaches, oral delivery can cause a more specific immune response in the gastrointestinal tract to fully eliminate C. difficile.

Cutting has been given private seed investment to continue his research and develop the new vaccine for Tuberculosis, C. difficile , and influenza.

Written by Christine Kearney