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Transgenic bananas to vaccinate pigs against PRRSV

The banana functions as a bioreactor, resulting in a vegetable oral vaccine. (Image source: Rameshng/Flickr)

A team of researchers from a Taiwanese university have developed an oral vaccine for pigs to protect them against Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRSV)

The National Taiwan University (NTU) undertook a project to develope transgenic bananas to vaccinate swine against PRRSV, also known as blue ear pig disease. 

Genetic engineering technology, used in the project, helped transfer genetic material of the virus to the banana chromosome. The banana then functioned as a bioreactor, resulting in a vegetable oral vaccine.

NTU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture professor Huang Pung-ling and NTU Graduate Institute of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology director professor Jeng Chian-ren headed the research team.

With this new oral vaccine, Huang said, “Pigs can eat the vaccine as raw food. It is extremely convenient and there is no risk of secondary infection or attenuation of vaccine proteins in the cooking process.”

In the industry, available PPRS vaccines are seen as limited and not extremely effective.

“After feeding the pigs with 50gm of banana leaves from the transgenic banana plants, three times at a two-week interval, the serum and tissue viral loads dropped. Patents have already been secured in Taiwan, the US and mainland China,” Huang said.

PRRS causes reproductive failure in breeding stock and respiratory tract illness in young pigs.