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Tackling polio with plants

Plants have been used to produce a new vaccine against poliovirus, which is hoped to be a major step towards global eradication of the disease.

A team of scientists produced the novel vaccine with a method that uses virus-like particles – non-pathogenic mimics of poliovirus – which are grown in plants.

These have all the features needed to train the immune system, but none of the weapons to cause an infection.

The team, based at the John Innes Centre, in Norfolk, says the process is cheap, easy and quick.

Professor George Lomonossoff, from the centre, said: “This is an incredible collaboration involving plant science, animal virology and structural biology. The question for us now is how to scale it up – we don’t want to stop at a lab technique.”

Current polio vaccines require the production of huge quantities of the virus. 

This poses a risk of the virus escaping, and use of the live attenuated virus effectively maintains polio.

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