Bacteriophages in viral vaccines

12 March 2009

bacteriophage-sockWhen live, attenuated poliovirus vaccine was used in the US, its production and testing was regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Guidelines for preparing and testing the vaccine can be found in the Code of Federal Regulationsthe codification of the rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government. While reading the 1991 regulations for OPV, I came across the following curious statement:

Each seed virus used for vaccine manufacture shall be prepared from an acceptable strain in monkey kidney cell cultures, derived from animals…or in a cell culture of a type determined to be suitable by the Director…The seed virus used in vaccine manufactures shall be demonstrated to be free of extraneous microbial agents except for the unavoidable bacteriophage.

Some live human virus vaccines have been shown to contain bacterial viruses. Why would there be ‘unavoidable bacteriophage’ in seed virus and vaccines? If you know the answer, post it in the comments section, and I’ll explain fully tomorrow. I’ll also tell you why this has been an all-poliovirus week at virology blog.

  • Michael_Day

    Phage contamination in the cell culture media used during virus propagation? Specifically the serum used in the media…

  • Replicon

    Yeah I agree, phage contamination of bovine serum seems most likely. However, was phage also used as a biocide for controlling bacterial contamination? Or as a marker to ensure/check live virus survivied the vaccine preparation process?

  • NB

    Fetal bovine serum is constantly used as a supplement to the nutrient media used in mammalian cell culture because of its richness in embryonic protein constituents which stimulate cell attachment and growth. Such mammalian cell cultures are used to propagate virus for vaccine production. Phages are introduced along with host bacteria into FBS which is collected in extremely contaminated environment such as slaughterhouse. Effective filtration technique can separate host bacteria from the serum but cannot separate the phage which then remains in the serum. (Phage in Live Virus Vaccines: Are They Harmful to People?”, Science, Volume 187, pages 522, 523 (Feb. 14, 1975)

    I think you were talking about poliovirus all this week in March because the charity organization that was founded during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt to defeat the epidemic disease polio is named “National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis-then “March of Dimes-now”. (This is my guess!)

  • http://www.virology.ws profvrr

    You are all correct: the bacteriophage present in live virus vaccines has its origin in the bovine serum used in the cell culture medium during growth of the virus. See the article in Science 187: 522, 1975 (provided by NB in his comment). Apparently there was quite a debate about the safety of such phages. Thanks to those who contributed to this discussion.

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  • LILY

    is there a vaccine for this virus? i can't seem to find it anywhere and i have to turn this assignment in tomorrow!!!! HELP ME PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • LILY

    i think so. though i'm not sure. i'm only in middle school but i super smart and do collage math.

  • http://www.virology.ws profvrr

    A vaccine against bacteriophages? No, there are none.

  • LILY

    is there a vaccine for this virus? i can't seem to find it anywhere and i have to turn this assignment in tomorrow!!!! HELP ME PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • LILY

    i think so. though i'm not sure. i'm only in middle school but i super smart and do collage math.

  • http://www.virology.ws profvrr

    A vaccine against bacteriophages? No, there are none.

  • wonder_girl

    I dont know how, but I think that the phage virus has an effect on humans and can also cause harm!!

  • http://www.virology.ws profvrr

    On what do you base your statement? Bacteriophages do not replicate in
    human cells. The do replicate in the bacteria that are resident within
    us, and may have both beneficial and harmful effects. For example,
    bacteriophage lysis of beneficial gut bacteria could lead to imbalance
    in the populations and disease.