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Virus-like particles: The new frontier of vaccines for animal viral infections

Vaccination continues to be the main approach to protect animals from infectious diseases. Until recently, all licensed vaccines were developed using conventional technologies. Subunit vaccines are, however, gaining attention from researchers in the field of veterinary vaccinology, and among these, virus-like particles (VLPs) represent one of the most appealing approaches. VLPs are robust protein cages in the nanometer range that mimic the overall structure of the native virions but lack the viral genome. They are often antigenically indistinguishable from the virus from which they were derived and present important advantages in terms of safety. VLPs can stimulate strong humoral and cellular immune responses and have been shown to exhibit self-adjuvanting abilities. In addition to their suitability as a vaccine for the homologous virus from which they are derived, VLPs can also be used as vectors for the multimeric presentation of foreign antigens. VLPs have therefore shown dramatic effectiveness as candidate vaccines. Here, we review the current status of VLPs as a vaccine technology in the veterinary field, and discuss the potential advantages and challenges of this technology.

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