Freeze-Drying May Bring Polio Vaccines to Remote Locations

Polio vaccine retained potency through freeze-drying and rehydration process
researchers in a lab
(Precision Vaccinations)

Researchers have developed a polio vaccine that doesn't require refrigeration, which means it can be easily transported to remote locations. 

These USC researchers freeze-dried the injectable vaccine into a powder, kept it at room temperature for 4 weeks and then rehydrated the vaccine. 

This innovative process delivered full protection against the polio virus when tested in mice. 

The study was published in the November 27, 2018,  issue of the journal mBio.  

"Stabilization is not rocket science, so most academics don't pay much attention to this field," said the study's first author, Woo-Jin Shin, Ph.D., a fellow in the lab of Jae Jung, chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. 

"However, no matter how wonderful a drug or vaccine is, if it isn't stable enough to be transported, it doesn't do anyone much good," said Dr. Shin in a USC press release. 

The biggest hitch to complete polio eradication has been creating a temperature-stable vaccine for use in developing countries where refrigeration may be unavailable.

By removing moisture through freeze-drying, researchers have created temperature-stable vaccines for measles, typhoid, and meningococcal disease. 

But scientists haven't been able to make a polio vaccine that retains potency through freeze-drying and rehydration. 

Dr. Shin and his colleagues used two lab techniques -- liquid chromatography and high-throughput screening -- that allowed them to analyze a high volume of ingredients and formulations until they found one that worked. 

Jung's hope is that a foundation or company will take over the project to pay for human studies and bring the injectable vaccine onto the market. 

In addition to Dr. Shin, the study's authors are Daiki Hara and Jae Jung of the Keck School of Medicine, and Francisca Gbormittah, Hana Chang and Byeong S. Chang of Integrity Bio Inc.

This is good news since recent polio cases have been reported in Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Syria, and Pakistan. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends international travelers to these countries should confirm their polio immunization prior to departure. 

Travelers can find convenient locations to schedule a travel vaccination appointment by visiting Vax-Before-Travel. 

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides private sector vaccine prices for general information. And, vaccine discounts can be found on this webpage.   

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the CDC.