In a recent article in the Advances in Virus Research, researchers recently proposed that it is possible to use plants and plant viruses to develop vaccines, citing a number of recent studies that have demonstrated the viability of this approach, including one study in which humans were successfully immunized against hepatitis B by eating transgenic potatoes that carried hepatitis B antigens.
"Foreign gene expression is an efficient mechanism for getting protein
vaccines against different human viral and nonviral diseases. Plants
make it easy to deal with safe, inexpensive, and provide trouble-free
The scientists state that plant viral expression vectors have several advantages: plant viruses are particularly attractive for
producing oral vaccines because of their ability to infect edible crops. Also, the fact that plant components (fruits, leaves, and roots) can be eaten means that plant-based edible vaccines would provide an
easy and inexpensive route of administering antigens. In addition,
edible plants can be used as vehicles for delivering vaccines. This could
protect these vaccines from degradation by gastric and intestinal fluids, the researchers say
because Ag delivery by plant cells protects the Ag during passage
through the acid environment of the stomach. And lastly, plant-derived
vaccines eliminate the risk of contamination by zoonotic infections, potentially reducing the safety risks that accompany certain currently available vaccines.
By Kasiemobi Udo-okoye