Researcher Ali Ashkar examines cultures to make sure a test vaccine was still effective after being stored using the new method he and his colleagues created. (JD Howell/ McMaster University)

Canadians overcome obstacles in transporting vaccines

Vaccines need to be kept cool and that makes delivering them in hot countries difficult and expensive. Now, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario have found a way to overcome the problem.

It involves using compounds that have already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Agency. “We found that…we could mix those compounds with our vaccine and then dry the vaccine which essentially creates like a pill that’s in kind of a sugary gel format,” says Matthew Miller, an assistant professor in biochemistry who was part of the team working on the project.

“This considerably decreased the weight of the vaccine and also allowed it to remain stable at really high temperatures for many, many months.”

Once the vaccine arrives where it is needed it can be reconstituted with a salt water solution and made ready to administer.

Delivering vaccines in warm countries like Somalia can be difficult and expensive because the doses must be kept cold during transportation. (Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP Photo/June 1, 2013)

Testing on humans is next

The process has been successfully tested using animal models but it must be tested on humans before it can be approved for use. That may take several years’ more work.

The UN’s World Health Organization says 1.5 million deaths could be prevented if global immunization coverage improves. Vaccination can prevent diseases like cervical cancer, diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, whooping cough, pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella and tetanus.

Prof. Matthew Miller explains the breakthrough in how to store and transport vaccines and why it is so dramatic.


(photo: ESWI/Koen Broos)

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