It all started with the question why a parasite such as Giardia lamblia can colonize and survive in the intestines of humans and animals. By doing so, the organism causes an infection that causes swelling, nausea and diarrhea every year in 200 million people. This amazing capacity of the parasite has attracted the attention of the Argentinian scientist Hugo Luján, researcher of the Conicet and the Catholic University of Córdoba for 27 years. After so many years of experiments, the acquired knowledge has Luján helped to invent a platform that uses the same weapons of the parasite to produce vaccines that can be administered orally.
The results of the experiments demonstrating the effectiveness of the platform to generate protection against the attack of microorganisms were published in an article in the journal Nature Communications of 21 January. "We had already developed and patented a vaccine against the parasite Giardia, and what we were looking for later was looking at what happened when we used the same proteins that are part of the disguise that the parasite has and that it does not serve to be. detected by the body's immune system, "Dr. Luján to Infobae.
From the variable proteins of the surface of the parasite – which can be obtained by contaminated water and food – the scientists have benefited from their ability to withstand the hostile environment of the intestine and have shown that they have the immune response of the body can stimulate for the prevention of infections.
So far, vaccines given orally are a global challenge. Most vaccines used today are given by injection, something that sometimes causes pain. There are very few approved oral vaccines. One of the difficulties is that when the oral vaccine is administered, the degradation of the digestive system must overcome and then fulfill the mission of giving effective protection to the organism so that it defends itself against a specific infection.
"At the moment there is worldwide research into the development of oral vaccines, because they are easier to administer and do not require much training for health professionals, and injectable vaccines sometimes cause aversion in children and adults." For these reasons, the results of studies like that of Hugo Luján's team, the platform could be applied to the development of oral vaccine production, "said Juliana Cassataro, a researcher at Conicet and the National University of San Martín, who also discussed the topic. works on Infobae, although she did not participate in the published study.
Another member of the team, the scientist Marianela Serradell, who worked with Lucia Rupil, explained to Infobae what the platform consists of: "We use virus-like particles that are inactive and have the capacity to assemble themselves in the laboratory, which already have been used in vaccines for hepatitis B and human papillomavirus administered by injection.Our innovative idea was to adapt the Giardia parasite proteins to those virus-like particles.We treat them to be resistant in the intestinal tract. "Through an experiment in mice they have tested the platform with the influenza virus.
That is to say, "we have exposed the previously vaccinated mice to the influenza virus and found that they were protected in 100% of cases," he explained. In addition, the researchers conducted another experiment in which vaccinated mice were implanted with tumor cells expressing an influenza virus antigen. Immunization worked in 95% of cases. "With the two experiments, we have demonstrated that a good antibody response and good cellular response can be achieved via the platform that allows oral vaccines," said the researcher.
The study was funded by the National Agency for Scientific and Technological Promotion, Conicet, the Georg Forster Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Germany (won by Dr. Luján), among other institutions. In the team, Román Martino, Alicia Saura and researchers from France and Germany participated in David Klatzmann, Bertrand Bellier and Tim Sparwasser.
According to Luján, "the developed platform has enormous potential for immunization of humans and animals." The vaccines generate the immune response necessary for the prevention of infections and do not require the addition of adjuvants, which are generally criticized by anti-vaccine groups, "he said. "If we achieve that the platform is studied in clinical trials and approved by the health authorities, it would have a major economic and social impact on Argentina."