Battle Against Hepatitis B Gains New Ally: Grass Pollen Allergy Vaccine

Battle Against Hepatitis B Gains New Ally: Grass Pollen Allergy Vaccine

Researchers in Austria developed a new grass pollen allergy vaccine (BM32) that was found to have a potential hepatitis B infection-neutralizing activity.

The study, “Immunotherapy With the PreS-based Grass Pollen Allergy Vaccine BM32 Induces Antibody Responses Protecting Against Hepatitis B Infection,” was published in the journal EBioMedicine.

BM32 is a recombinant hypoallergenic vaccine developed for people who have allergies to grass pollen. The vaccine is based on fusion proteins and consists of non-allergenic peptides from the IgE binding sites of the four major grass pollen allergens fused to the hepatitis B virus-derived surface protein preS.

The new BM32 vaccine requires far fewer injections and has fewer side effects than other treatments for allergy sufferers.

The novel recombinant peptide-carrier technology was developed under the leadership of Rudolf Valenta at the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Allergy Research at MedUni Vienna, and with the commercial alliance of Biomay AG.

In a Phase 2b clinical trial conducted as part of her thesis at MedUni Vienna’s Institute for Pathophysiology and Allergy Research, Carolin Cornelius found that BM32 is also a potential treatment option against hepatitis B infections.

“We were able to show that, in people who had not previously been immunized with a conventional hepatitis B vaccine, vaccination with BM32 achieved an average inhibition of hepatitis B virus infection of 80 percent,” Cornelius said in a press release.

The finding indicates that peptide-carrier fusion proteins is a concept that may offer the possibility to improve hepatitis B immunization. Further studies are required to investigate the usefulness of BM32 vaccine against the hepatitis B virus (HBV).

“Ongoing investigations should help to produce a comprehensive characterization of the HBV neutralization capability of BM32. Apart from having a preventive effect, there might be additional benefits for patients suffering from chronic hepatitis B infection,” Cornelius said.

Infection with HBV remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The virus can be identified in the blood of nearly 350 million people. But 5 to 10 percent of people vaccinated using a conventional hepatitis B vaccine fail to have an adequate level of antibodies in their blood.

“One can only assume that these people are not protected against infection,” Cornelius said.

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