A new study published in PLOS Biology reports that imperfect vaccines might perfect viruses by allowing them to evolve and strengthen into super virulent strains. Vaccines used today have a simple, clear cut purpose of making the host completely immune to the virus and stopping it from spreading it to others.
And the practice has been successful for many years, with “perfect” vaccines protecting children against polio, mumps, measles or smallpox, but it’s the “imperfect” or, otherwise called “leaky”, vaccines that might pose a threat for future development.
In an experiment and observation study conducted on chickens, researchers followed the evolution of the herpes virus that causes Marek’s disease in poultry. Since its first discovery, in the 1950’s, it was known to be a minor affliction that didn’t cause much harm, but has now managed to transform in a much more virulent virus that is capable of killing entire flocks within 10 days.
While the injection protects the vaccinated chickens against the disease, it does not only fail to stop it from spreading, but actually makes the virus stronger when passed on to others. That has led to a pile of theories regarding cases such as the avian influenza. While birds in the United States and Europe inflicted with the disease were culled, others in Southeast Asia used “leaky” vaccines instead that allowed it to grow more potent and spread.
Lead researcher, Andrew Read, has explained that the use of less-than-perfect vaccines could become a problem in the future for humans as well. In this day and age, we have a long list of “perfect” vaccines that work flawlessly to their purpose and boost the health industry, so current vaccines are not in doubt.
It is a study to be considered for the future, a warning that imperfectly made vaccines against dangerous diseases such as Ebola could follow in the same path if not properly fine-tuned. Peter Openshaw, at Imperial College in London has stated that the findings should not be used to add more fuel to the fire where it concerns anti-vaccination campaigns.
All the vaccines that are standard and currently in use are deemed as “perfect” and it should not in any way discourage parents from the practice. They have already proved themselves as efficient in both immunizing the host and preventing the virus from jumping to others.
The study, however, underlines the need for researchers to be very careful and vigilant when creating next-generation vaccines. What would be made to help humanity, might eventually harm it if not cautious.
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