18 February 2015 14:59 in Scientific Developments/BreakthroughsAn international team of researchers have commenced a new project that will lead to the creation of a wholly synthetic vaccine for polio.
Operating with a grant from the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the initiative involves researchers from the US and UK and could represent an important step towards completely eradicating the disease, reports BBC News.
Current vaccines use a weakened version of the virus as a stimulus, creating the small risk of it being reactivated in certain patients and spreading via infection. By contrast, an artificial vaccine has no trace of the viral genome in it.
Instead, the team will use a complex chemical formula to create a molecule that triggers the same immune response as polio in the body, but has no way of replicating.
Professor Dave Stuart from Oxford University said: "Our aspiration is eventually to get rid of the virus and consign it to a few vials in the freezers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia, or wherever."
Polio was once a common infection, but has been reduced to a few hundred cases a year due to advances in vaccination. The last case of natural polio infection acquired in the UK was in 1984.