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Common Mineral Keeps Vaccines Safe in High Temperatures

4/28/17 8:00 AM

Courtesy: University of Bath

Every year, about 40% of vaccines are wasted due to breaks in cold chain getting the vital medicines to remote areas of the world. The main problem occurs during the last leg of the journey when those vaccines are transported in cold boxes by bicycle or horseback to their final destination. In an effort to save money and lives, researchers have developed a new technique that can preserves the quality of vaccines without the need for constant refrigeration.

Vaccine proteins are composed of the pathogen being targeted, so if the protein starts to break down it jeopardizes the safety and efficiency of the vaccine. That's why vaccines must be kept between 2 °C and 8 °C (35.6 °F and 46.4 °F), temperatures above that will cause the proteins to lose their shape, making the vaccine unusable.

Working with colleagues at the University of Newcastle, a team at the University of Bath created a way to keep proteins in vaccines intact at temperatures up to 100 °C (212 °F). Their secret, silica, which is non-toxic and cheap since it's basically sand. The silica binds to the proteins creating a protective cage around them, allowing vaccines to be delivered without refrigeration or even stay intact for up to three years at room temperature.

The process, called ensilication, works on protein-based vaccines, including all the common childhood vaccines. It does not work on a new category of DNA vaccines, which are still under investigation and not on the market yet.

As the team conducts animal trials, they are looking to perfect a method for removing the silica from proteins. Currently, researchers are using a chemical wash to remove the silica casing, but are working on a method that involves shaking the vaccine to break the silica's bond so the material can be filtered out.

Researchers hope that once the process is perfected it will reduce shipping costs, while providing much needed vaccines to people in remote areas that lack refrigeration.

To ensure accuracy of vaccine temperatures during storage, MadgeTech offers the Vaccine Temperature Monitoring System (VTMS). This wireless data logger allows for continuous, real-time monitoring with the ability to alert the user when thresholds are breached to prevent any loss. The VTMS is also 100% compliant to all CDC and VFC regulations. To view all the data loggers designed specifically for medical and pharmaceutical applications, click here.

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MadgeTech Marketing Team