Green our vaccines! Part III

Beet black scorch virus.

Family: Tombusviridae

Genus: Necrovirus

I know you all are thinking what Im thinking. LETS MAKE A VACCINE OUTTA THAT! YAY!!!!

A ton of plant vaccine papers have been rolling out on PubMed since I first wrote about them a few months ago. I couldnt resist writing about another cool paper-- How to make a GMO virus that infects plants to make them produce viral proteins for a rotavirus vaccine:

Oral administration of plant-based rotavirus VP6 induces antigen-specific IgAs, IgGs and passive protection in mice

Rotavirus causes diarrhea that kills hundreds of thousands of babies and toddlers every year.

"WAAAAAAAIT, ERV!" some of you readers who call me ERV instead of Abbie might say. "We HAVE a rotavirus vaccine. Actually, we have a couple-- Rotarix and Rotateq. Youve written about them before. Why are these people going to all the effort of making another one?"

Rotarix and Rotateq are live attenuated viruses. Even though these vaccines are administered orally, because the viruses are 'live', the vaccines have to be kept under refrigeration. The second you mix all the parts together (virus + liquid = oral vaccine), its only 'good' for 24 hours.

As we saw with the cholera/E. coli vaccine, not only are plants great as little factories, making tons of vaccine product-- once you dry the plant material, it can sit at room temp for at least 3 years and still elicit a protective immune response! The places that need a rotovirus vaccine the most do not have reliable electricity/refrigeration-- a plant-based rotavirus vaccine would be a fantastic option for them!

GMO plants are not the only option for us, though. We can transiently infect plant with plant viruses that have been genetically modified to encode for our protein of interest, so the plant will only be a temporary vaccine factory. In the case of this vaccine, scientists wanted plants to make a highly conserved protein, Viral Protein 6 (VP6). Instead of making their plant permanently make VP6 via plant genetic modification, they just altered a plant virus, Beet Black Scorch Virus, to encode VP6. Why Beet Black Scorch Virus? Cause then we can make this vaccine in sugar beet, a popular crop grown all around the world!

Whats SUPER neat about this approach, is that antibodies to VP6 are NOT neutralizing. If you get this vaccine and are exposed to rotavirus, you will probably still get diarrhea. However, antibodies to VP6 interfere with other parts of the viral life-cycle, and still help prime your immune system to ultimately make a neutralizing antibody response-- the end result then, is that you still get sick, but its not as bad, and you get better faster.

That is exactly what happened. When they gave the plants-infected-with-a-GMO-scary-sounding-virus-that-makes-VP6 vaccine to mice, the mice made antibodies (IgG and IgA) to VP6. Those mice then breast-fed pups (transferred their anti-VP6 IgA to the babies). When the baby mice were then challenged with real rotavirus, the baby mice still got kinda sick (

This could go a long way to stopping lots of infant/toddler deaths.

More like this

The trouble with spell check is it doesn't know what you meant when you make a high level homonym typo.

Illicit. Should be Elicit. It's not illegal.

By Gray Gaffer (not verified) on 02 Aug 2010 #permalink

some of you readers who call me ERV instead of Abbie might say.

ERV: Explaining complex propositions in virology and evolutionary science in a hilarious and accessible way. Whompin' the Colgate twins in the gud. Being a b/tard. Telling Julie Haberle âtits or GTFOâ.......also âWARBLEGARBLE!â

Abbie: Demonstrating enormous patience with an audience of hostile churchgoers in the gentle explanation of ancestral proteins etc.. Loading up the Kong with treats and tuning the T.V. to the Boomerang Channel (or whatever) so Arnie can watch wacky races (or whatever) while she boxes. Swooning over Dawkins because he is wearing an Aloha shirt. Getting Baileys Irish Cream and knives for Christmas.

ERV = kicking ass,elucidating and cracking us up.

Abbie = Charming the hell out of us.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 02 Aug 2010 #permalink

I make the distinction at ERV:=Science, Abbie:=gorgeous abs. I can usually hold my own in science, I haven't seen my abs since the Ford administration.

It's brilliant! Now they don't even have to have clean water or anything!

I am very cynical about the motivations of people who I think would take advantage of a great scientific advance to avoid dealing with poverty, under-development, etc. Great science tho.

I personally think that reducing mortality among people is good, whatever the motivations. I don't, as a rule, make the perfect the enemy of the good.

In a place where corruption is endemic, you can put any amount of money into building infrastructure for things like clean water which just goes into the pockets of corrupt officials; even in places like China, where the country is rich enough to afford infrastructure, this happens.

If poor people can grow a vegetable that will save them from diarrhea, they will be better off, and they won't be at the mercy of those who steal from them. The power to help themselves will be in their own hands.

But let's not let that stop us from our preening. Nothing good comes from teh corporationz.

By Gabriel Hanna (not verified) on 02 Aug 2010 #permalink

Yeah, "eddie", that's what we should always do - hold back on the mitigation of suffering, because that will just encourage people to be lazy about attacking the root causes thereof. Those who are suffering, of course, are those least able to address those concerns, so they are consequently in need of the strongest motivation. Those damn babies and toddlers won't pull their own weight without the threat of an agonizing slow death looming over them.

What Thanny and Gabriel said, and I'll also point out that Rotavirus vaccination is also being introduced in developed countried which can /do provide clean water to their citizens, as per WHO recommendations. This shouldn't be that surprising since almost every child in the world suffers at least one bout of rotavirus related diarrhea as an infant.

I wonder how the economics of the new vacine will turn out. If it can be produced, stored and distributed at lower cost than the existing vaccines, it may save the pubic health systems a lot of money, and that's not just a consideration in developing nations.

Paul Browne and I are wondering the same thing but in wondering I also get mad and scared.

I will admit my first instinct was to beat up on âeddieâ . His timing is off in picking rotavirus instead of cholera to point out the water problem. When I was looking at the gastroenteritis outbreak map at WHO yesterday I noticed there were two

1. Edmond, Oklahoma, USA

2. Staffordshire, UK

Both wedding receptions.

Never let a toddler near a buffet.....EVER!


Every time ERV/Abbie talks about one of these fantastic developments I start thinking about implementation and what complete nitwits bureaucrats are.

They are just as likely to reject this tech as they have been to reject clean water initiatives and roads. Vandana Shiva and Michael Pollan are still out there spewing giant fountains of atavistic luddite mystic bullshit.

We shouldnât underestimate the douchebaggery of the âvolunteersâ that rule NGOs. They filter every single penny of foreign private and public aid to third world countries. It isnât the superevilmegacorprateoverlords that are a problem, itâs the trust fund baby from Berkeley that fetishizes poverty like he is watching a plague reenactment at a renaissance festival.

These are the chumps who turn down hydrologists and engineers who want to field test filtration systems and farm to market road laying tech where it would do a lot of good. Why? Because you are âinterfering with their subsistence based ethnic Woa, dead baby? Sucks to be you. Have some pills.â

I have been watching some of the European counterparts of these clowns shit on William Kamkwamba for being poisoned by American consumerism and westernized. William Kamkwamba rocks. He wanted electricity so he read a book and built a windmill.….

I am amazed and ecstatic over the cascade effect of scientific advancement and enraged and repulsed by the wall of magical thinking human garbage that stands with locked arms in its path.

Abbie please get on that designer virus that kills white people with it for the children.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 03 Aug 2010 #permalink

Prometheus, I was at ALS a couple of weeks ago, and on the website for Berkeley Lab they have all this stuff about minor technological upgrades to traditional technology, like stoves that burn dung a little better, or something--I said much what you did, about the fetishization of poverty. Didn't go over too well.

By Gabriel Hanna (not verified) on 03 Aug 2010 #permalink

"....Berkeley Lab they have all this stuff about minor technological upgrades to traditional technology,"

They sure are selling it that way aren't they?

It's crap.

The arsenic poisoned water and the cholera ridden water are brought to you by....UNICEF circa 1975.

UNICEF raised a buttload of money to tap aquifers all over the world with shallow tube wells.

If you are going to tap an aquifer:

1. Drill all the way to the bottom.

2. Test for arsenic.

3. If clear, use that well, one big pump and build a water tower.

What you don't do is cut a dozen shallow wells with open reservoirs.

What is easier, haul a load of dirty didies to the open reservoir to wash them or haul the water home.

duhhh cholera and arsenic poisoning.

The Berkeley solution, ashes, rust and ultraviolet light.

Wow, sophisticated.

Copper pipe and brass spigots work pretty well too.

P.S. The Sudan has a huge ass coal deposit that they don't mine because of agreements with the NGO's not to encourage fossil fuel use. That's why women get raped gathering dung to cook with. It's not the goddamn stoves it's a western fuck-you-dad obsession with carbon footprints.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 03 Aug 2010 #permalink

"The second you mix all the parts together (virus + liquid = oral vaccine), its only 'good' for 24 hours."

Is there a reason why dried virus can't be shipped and stored and mixed with water in individual doctors' offices? Or even better, to put the virus in a pill form?