Breakthrough could lead to an oral vaccine for hepatitis B

Hepatitis B infects millions of people every year, and the disease goes on to kill hundreds of thousands each year. Small children are particularly at risk for the disease. The vaccine used to prevent infection is an injection today, and it is costly to transport due to the requirements to keep the vaccine stable and due to that cost many people in developing nations aren't vaccinated.Researchers have been trying to develop oral vaccines for diseases like Hepatitis B because they are cheaper and easier to administer than injections, but efforts to create an oral Hep B vaccine have failed. That could change with a new collaboration between physicists at the Niels Bohr Institute and researchers from the University of Sao Paulo working with the Butantan Institute. The researchers believe they have a new technique for the pharmaceutical world that could lead to an optimal oral Hepatitis B vaccine.

The tech is commonly used in solid-state physics to explore how a vaccine behaves in a particular type of encapsulation. The research has given information that would not be available without the technique. To create a successful oral vaccine, it must be encapsulated in a material that can endure the digestive system and protect it until it reaches the destination where it is needed in the body.

The team used a technique that combines x-rays and neutron imaging to look at a material called SBA-15 that is well suited to encapsulating a hepatitis B vaccine. The problem was the team didn't know how it protected the vaccine and if the vaccine was completely effective. The team used the new technique to produce 3D images of the inside of SBA-15 silica to see how the vaccine behaves inside the silica down to the particle scale.

They say that the vaccine clumps making it less effective. They now know exactly how much vaccine should be put into the silica capsule for it to work in the body and clinical trials can be better interpreted. The goal of the team is to create a 6-in-1 oral vaccine to immunize against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, hepatitis B and Hib.