A European Union-funded project is combining biotechnology and gene engineering to design novel vaccines based on the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
The Mycosplasma bacteria are the smallest self-replicating organisms.
They lack a cell wall, making them resistant to almost all antibiotics, and infections caused by Mycoplasma in livestock, result in huge losses in Europe and throughout the world.
Although there are vaccines against two species of Mycoplasma that affect pigs and poultry, no vaccines exist for many Mycoplasma species that affect not only livestock but also pets and humans.
The eight-million Euro MycoSynVac project will see researchers engineer a universal vaccine chassis that will be free of virulence and optimized for fast growth in a serum-free medium.
This chassis will be used to create specific vaccines against two highly detrimental pathogens that are causing suffering in livestock animals and large financial losses to the animal industry.
The chassis will also set the basis for other potential applications, such as for cell therapy and infectious lung disease treatment.
"We will engineer a new bacteria to be used as a vaccine. We will remove the genes that make the bacteria pathogenic and improve the chassis for an optimized growth in a serum-free medium," said Luis Serrano, director of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and co-coordinator of the project.
By expressing specific harmless antigens from one or more pathogens, we will be able to create targeted vector vaccines, he said.
Researchers also foresee that the generated mycoplasma chassis can be further developed for other vaccines and will have other potential applications, such as in cell therapy and infectious lung disease therapy.