Vaccines are only as good as the people they treat and absolutely no good if they are spoiled by heat along the way.
It’s a challenge so great that in some remote parts of the world, this precious medicine has to be transported by camels carrying solar-powered mini refrigerators on their backs. Other populations never get them at all.
The need or an uninterrupted, refrigerated trail of vaccines is known as the “cold chain“, and in most cases requires consistent storage between 2–8 °C, all the way from production to dispersal; otherwise, it could lay waste to the entire process.
“You can spend all kinds of money developing a vaccine, but if it is deactivated by high temperature an hour before you can give it to someone, it doesn’t matter,” says Ali Ashkar, a pathologist who specialises in immunology at McMaster University in Canada.
There are few technical immunisation issues more important, and Ashkar and his colleagues now think they have invented a potential solution, one that could allow vaccines to go unrefrigerated for weeks at a time in warm and remote areas.
While other tactics have focused on reengineering the vaccines or modifying their vectors, this new method is based on the simple addition of sugar.
In this case, however, the viruses are mixed and then dried into a sugary film, created from a combination of two FDA-approved food preservatives, called pullulan and trehalose.
Suspended in this solution, the vaccines can be transported without the need for constant cooling. To reactive them, local clinicians need only add water before administering them to patients, as fresh as if they came from a fridge. To read out more, please visit: https://bit.ly/2WlhtsQ