British scientists have found a cheap and simple way of keeping vaccines stable, even at tropical temperatures, which could transform immunization campaigns in the developing world (Reuters).
The ability to transport vaccines at normal temperatures would reduce cost and greatly improve access to vaccines.
The newly discovered method involves mixing the vaccine with the sugars trehalose and sucrose and leaving it to dry out on a filter or membrane. As the water evaporates, the vaccine mixture turns into a syrup and solidifies on the membrane, preserving the active part of the vaccine in a kind of suspended animation and protecting it from harm even at high temperatures. Flushing the membrane with water rehydrates the vaccine in a few seconds,
The researchers managed to store two different virus-based vaccines on sugar-stabilized membranes for 4 to 6 months at 45 degrees Celsius (113F) without the medicines being damaged.
The next step in the research is to demonstrate that the process can be scaled up for large production with standard or newly-licensed human vaccines. The work was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.
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