The Emerging Role of DNA Vaccines

W. Michael McDonnell, MD, Western Washington Medical Group, and Frederick K. Askari, MD, PhD, University of Michigan.

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In This Article

DNA Vaccines as a Therapeutic Modality for Patients Who are Already Infected

The main thrust of DNA vaccine technology lies in creating vaccines for viral, bacterial or parasitic infections -- such as HCV, HSV, HIV, HPV, malaria, influenza, or tuberculosis -- which do not appear to induce neutralizing antibodies. It is also hoped that this technology could be used to treat established chronic viral infections.[22,23] Chronic viral infections represent an ongoing struggle between the host immune system and the virus. In some chronic viral infections such HBV and HCV, the ongoing damage to the host is not due to the lytic action of virus so much as the immune system response to infected but functional cells. The humoral system has been "outwitted" by the rapid mutation of the envelope proteins and the cellular-mediated immunity is not able to swiftly eliminate all the infected cells before the virus is able to infect more cells. Naked DNA vaccines may be able to augment cell-mediated immunity sufficiently to tip the balance in favor of the host and eliminate the virus completely. While this may be the most uncertain application of DNA vaccines, it also represents one of the greatest leaps forward in the science of vaccination.

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