A team of scientists led by Professor Wolfgang Hammerschmidt, Head of the Department of Gene Vectors, and Professor Reinhard Zeidler of the Ludwig Maximilian University Hospital in Munich has succeeded in developing the world’s first vaccine against the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) based on virus-like particles (VLPs). VLPs have the same structure as the EBV but lack the viral genome and are therefore not infectious.
EM-Images varify the structural resemblance of virus-like particles (VLPs) with Epstein-Barr virus. Image: Prof. Dr. Gerhard Wanner, LMU
“Using virus-like particles we can cause a strong immune reaction, which protects against infection with the Epstein-Barr virus,“ says Zeidler. “Above all, patients whose immune system is not fully functional could benefit from this because they have an increased risk of developing lymphoma caused by EBV.” The scientists will now conduct preclinical trials on the vaccine in order to prove the mechanism of action and at the same time optimize production of the vaccine.
A very large section of the population has a latent (i.e. symptom-free) form of EBV infection. Acute EBV infection, however, can cause infectious mononucleosis. While the disease is usually harmless in childhood, it can lead to serious illness in adolescents and adults, and increases the risk of contracting certain types of lymphoma. EBV is also involved in the development of various types of cancer. Primary EBV infection poses a particularly high risk for immuno-compromised patients, such as transplant recipients. As their immune system is not intact, EBV can induce post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders (PTLD), which can have a fatal outcome. Prophylactic vaccination prior to transplant could significantly reduce the risk of developing PTLD. Understanding the mechanisms that cause common diseases and developing new approaches with regard to their diagnosis, therapy and prevention are key objectives of the Helmholtz Zentrum München.
Ruiss R. et al: A VLP-based Epstein-Barr Virus vaccine. J. Virol. doi:10.1128/JVI.05598-11
Link to publication
The Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Centre for Environmental Health, aims to develop personalised medicine for the diagnosis, therapy and prevention of common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To that end, it examines the interaction of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. The Helmholtz Zentrum München is based in Neuherberg in the north of Munich and has about 1,900 staff members. It is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 17 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centres with a total of 31,000 staff. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de
Contact for media representatives
Sven Winkler, Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Centre for Environmental Health, Ingolstädter Landstrasse 1, D-85764 Neuherberg – Phone: +49 89-3187-3946 – Fax: +49 89-3187-3324 – email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Wolfgang Hammerschmidt, Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Centre for Environmental Health, Department of Gene Vectors, Marchioninistr. 25, D-81377 Munich – Phone: +49 8 7099-506 – Fax: +49 89 7099-500 – email: email@example.com
Professor Reinhard Zeidler , Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Centre for Environmental Health, Department of Gene Vectors, Marchioninistr. 25, D-81377 Munich – Phone: +49 89 7099-239 – Fax: +49 89 7099-225 – email: firstname.lastname@example.org