Inactivated virus vaccines

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Inactivated, or killed, virus vaccines are made by mass producing the virulent virus and then inactivating the infectivity, usually by treatment with a chemical such as formaldehyde (Section 23.5.2.c). The trick lies in finding the combination of chemical concentration and reaction time that completely inactivates the virus, but leaves its antigens sufficiently unchanged that they can still stimulate a protective immune response.

Jonas Salk developed a treatment for poliovirus that led to the development of the vaccine that bears his name. The treatment involves suspending virions in formalin (formaldehyde solution) at 37 °C for about 10 days. Other examples of killed virus vaccines are those containing inactivated virions of influenza, hepatitis A and foot and mouth disease viruses.

Because the virus used to produce an inactivated vaccine is a virulent strain, it is vital that 100 per cent of the infectivity is destroyed in the production process. As discussed in Section 23.4, there are some situations in which a small proportion of virions is inactivated at a slower rate. It is essential that the kinetics of virus inactivation are understood and that an inactivation procedure is developed that guarantees 100 per cent inactivation.

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