Role of animal serum in the making of vaccines

#GS2 Health and Governance

News info:

  • The government on Wednesday issued a clarification stating that Covaxin, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, didn't contain the serum of a newborn calf. 
  • This was in response to discussions on social media about the presence of calf serum in Covaxin.
  • In the clarification, the govt reiterated the well-known use of calf serum, as also serum extracted from other animals, within the development of vaccines. 
  • These are needed to grow the disease-causing virus, bacteria, or other pathogens within the laboratory, but don't themselves become an ingredient of the vaccine.

How viruses are cultured

  • Vaccines just like the one made by Bharat Biotech uses the disease-causing virus itself to trigger an immune reaction in the citizenry. The virus is killed, or inactivated, before getting used within the vaccine, and injected into the physical body, but it's still ready to trigger an immune reaction.
  • To be utilized in the vaccine, the virus must be grown, or cultured, within the laboratory. Scientists attempt to create conditions conducive for the expansion of those viruses by recreating the type of environment that exists in an infected person’s tissues. Therefore, solutions containing ‘nutrients’ act because of the growth medium for the virus. These nutrients, like specific sugar and salt molecules, are extracted from tissues of suitable animals like horses, cows, goats, or sheep.
  • The virus grows in these nutrient-rich solutions. then, it goes through several stages of purification that make it suitable to be utilized in a vaccine. there's no trace of the expansion medium after the whole process is over.
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Why calf serum

  • According to the website of the Food and Drug Administration in the US, cow components are used mainly because cows are large animals, easily available, and rich in a number of useful chemicals and enzymes.
  • “Cow milk may be a source of amino acids and sugars like galactose. Cow tallow derivatives utilized in vaccine manufacture include glycerol. Gelatin and a few amino acids come from cow bones. 
  • Cow striated muscle is employed to organize broths utilized in certain complex media. Many difficult to grow micro-organisms and therefore the cells that are wont to propagate viruses require the addition of serum from blood to the expansion media,” it says.
  • Synthetic serum, and other nutrients, have also been developed, but consistent with one international manufacturer of those chemicals, Thermo Fisher Scientific, serum from newborn calf, which has been utilized in vaccine production for over 50 years, has “proven itself as a particularly effective growth supplement”.

Animal serum in vaccines

  • Historically, the animal serum has been utilized in the event of vaccines in other ways also the utilization of horse serum as an antibody supplement in the diphtheria vaccine is quite 100 years old. 
  • Horses want to be injected with small doses of bacteria that caused diphtheria in order that they might develop antibodies. 
  • Later, the blood of the infected animal was wont to extract the antibodies and utilized in the vaccine.

Source: IE

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